In the US, “must-pass” omnibus bills are a set of spending bills which need to pass in order for government and other governmental bodies to function properly and not shut down.
The government usually struggles to pass these bills, and that fact is often exploited by some senators, who want to use that opportunity to tuck in controversial bills that can’t pass on their own, but will pass attached to must-pass bills.
This time around, controversial CASE Act, the Trademark Modernization Act and a felony streaming proposal were included in the omnibus spending bill.
As reported by Protocol, the felony streaming proposal is a measure pushed by Republican Senator Thom Tillis, and according to Torrentfreak, this is not a first time that Thom Tillis is trying to make streaming piracy a felony.
If this bill passes, any unauthorized commercial streaming of copyrighted material will be considered a felony offence with a possible prison sentence. This can mean absolutely any unauthorized commercial streaming, from Instagram Stories and TikTok videos to Twitch Clips.
Currently, unauthorized streaming is categorized as a public performance, not an illegal distribution, and as such is punishable as a misdemeanour.
Talking to Prospect, Katharine Trendacosta, Electronic Frontier Foundation's associate director of policy and activism, said: “A felony streaming bill would likely be a chill on expression. We already see that it’s hard enough in just civil copyright and the DMCA for people to feel comfortable asserting their rights. The chance of a felony would impact both expression and innovation.”
Senator Thom Tillis is the chairman of the Intellectual Property Subcommittee, and this controversial bill is inspired by infamous SOPA and PIPA bills from 2012, which didn't pass.
Tillis’ campaign is backed up by some of the biggest corporations in the entertainment industry, who have been aggressively lobbying for years now for stronger copyright enforcement on the internet.
According to Prospect, Senator Tillis received donations from the Motion Picture Association, Sony Pictures, ASCAP, Universal Music Group, Comcast & NBCUniversal, The Internet and Television Association, Salem Media Group, Warner Music, and others.
This is all, of course, quite worrisome for content creators, who are already going through hell this year due to the whole debacle surrounding the more stringent application of copyright laws leading to DMCA strikes and bans, on Twitch.
Things are already not looking good for the streaming community and if this bill passes, it will mean that an accidental copyright infringement could be considered a felony, which could severely affect streaming as we know it.
The deadline for the omnibus spending bill was the 11th December, but the voting has been delayed until the 18th, so there's still a chance for this bill to be removed.
Content creators and fans around the internet have started a #stopDMCA movement on 16th December, in order to raise awareness of the potential disaster if the bill were to go through.
The US government and Congress are currently having heated negotiations over a coronavirus relief package. Voting for the omnibus funding bill has already been delayed several times, and in all that chaos, the streaming community is in fear that the felony streaming proposal might slip through unnoticed.
Will Senator Tillis succeed in his intentions or will the streaming community be able to stop him? We might have to wait until 18th December to find out.