The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, the latest COVID-19 relief package, last Monday in both the House and Senate. The package includes a provision that could very well change the entire livestreaming industry.
In the stimulus package, there’s a provision that makes illegal streaming of copyrighted material a felony. To be clear, this bill won’t be affecting creators. The bill is more focused on going after services dedicated to streaming pirated content. So Twitch streamers, YouTubers, online content creators and their viewers don’t need to worry.
Senator Thom Tillis revealed a similar bill earlier this month. Tillis claims that the “shift toward streaming content online has resulted in criminal streaming services illegally distributing copyrighted material that costs the US economy nearly $30 billion every year.” The bill states:
“It shall be unlawful for a person to willfully, and for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain, offer or provide to the public a digital transmission service that— (1) is primarily designed or provided for the purpose of publicly performing works protected under title 17 by means of a digital transmission without the authority of the copyright owner or the law; (2) has no commercially significant purpose or use other than to publicly perform works protected under title 17 by means of a digital transmission without the authority of the copyright owner or the law; or (3) is intentionally marketed by or at the direction of that person to promote its use in publicly performing works protected under title 17 by means of a digital transmission without the authority of the copyright owner or the law.”
Tillis states that this measure is not specifically targeted to “not sweep in normal practices by online service providers, good faith business disputes, noncommercial activities, or in any way impact individuals who access pirated streams or unwittingly stream unauthorized copies of copyrighted works.”
Streamers are still worried
Considering how little time everyone had to read the extremely long bill, it’s understandable that creators to be worried. Platforms like YouTube and Twitch haven’t been the best at moderating copyrighted material. This left many streamers thinking they’d be charged with a felony for including copyrighted material in their streams or videos. The bill itself doesn’t mention anything about changing how platforms moderate everyday copyright violations. Additionally, it doesn’t make anything new illegal. Instead, it makes streaming unlicensed content, which was a misdemeanor offense, into a felony offense. So sports channels could then sue online site rebroadcasting games
So, the bill will not make anything that isn’t already currently unlawful illegal.