Illegal video streaming to rise to felony status?

A man watches a YouTube video in Hong Kong on February 15, 2009.

The committee approved a bill sponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) that would make it a felony to stream videos if you do it a whole lot: there must be 10 or more instances of copyrighted works being streamed over a 180-day period. The content must be worth over $2500. So it's not necessarily meant to shut down the average person who watches the occasional pirated episode of "iCarly."

We talk to Tony Romm, reporter for the political website Politico.com, who says that this bill is meant to close a loophole in the law as it currently stands. There are more specific laws against downloading pirated content but modern technology is such that many people prefer to stream content off a server somewhere else rather than move the whole huge file on to their computer. He says the restrictions on the law are meant to protect people who might stream something inadvertently. No one wants to be an accidental felon.

But as any junior high school civics class will tell you, it's a long way for a bill to become a law. For one thing, the Senate has plenty of other things to worry about besides video streaming, so it may be a very long time before the bill reaches the floor for a full vote.

Gigi Sohn, president of the advocacy group Public Knowledge, agrees that the road ahead is not a bright one for this bill. She thinks the cable operators and communications companies will oppose it pretty heavily since it could hurt their ability to innovate in this field. But the big problem with trying to legislate a solution to piracy, according to Sohn, is that the copyright law dates back to the 1970s. "So you have a pre-VCR law in a YouTube world," she says.

Also in this program, The Wasteland. It's not just a classic poem, it's a hot new iPad app.

About the author

John Moe is the host of Marketplace Tech Report, where he provides an insightful overview of the latest tech news.

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