Streaming services have been the lifeline for many during the last nine months or so of the pandemic. With so many folks relegated to their homes in the face of COVID-related closings, platforms like Netflix, HBO Max, Amazon, and many others have drawn big numbers from a lot of different eyeballs. But illegal streamers who might be subverting paywalls to get a glimpse of the latest shows and movies better watch out. With the release of the latest COVID-19 relief bill, lawmakers have thrown in language that will make illegal streaming a felony offense.
The most recent COVID relief bill is (pork) barreling towards completion with Congress passing the plan in overwhelming fashion on Tuesday morning. The bill is a cool 5,600 pages long if you are looking for a little light reading with plenty of items that appear to have little to do with its original intention. One of those pieces is the adding of language that illegal streaming of both movies and music could now carry with it a 10-year jail sentence and untold amounts of fines.
While it does seem like a fine and imprisonment for illegally streaming a movie is something of a non sequitur when it comes to providing families and businesses financial relief because of the pandemics’ economic impact, there was a loose justification for its addition in the bill. Apparently, some lawmakers cited the impact the pandemic has had on movie theaters in particular, and part of this effort was to not only provide assistance to that stable of businesses but also disincentivize folks to seek out movies for “free.” In addition to the language that ramps up punishment for illegally streaming, the bill also includes somewhere in the neighborhood of $15 billion in aid for movie theaters and live venues.
Before you worry that your torrenting of some random movie is going to land you in the clink though, know that the bill does specify streaming for commercial purposes only. So while we aren’t advocating slipping around paywalls to see the latest movie or show, know that at least the bill targets those who are trying to profit from the venture. The new bill is looking to stop those who are ripping content and then setting up their own pay channels of sorts.
Streaming services saw a massive uptick in user hours especially around the beginning of the pandemic. This makes a lot of sense considering stay-at-home orders and business closings left folks with very little to do.
And things hit the movie theater industry particularly hard with many having to shutter or at best work at significantly less than full capacity. That trend isn’t likely to turn around, stimulus or not, considering so many streaming services are now going to have the latest movie releases on them. If theaters are seeking out government assistance just to keep the doors open, it feels like only a bandage for the situation rather than a full-blown solution. The world of streaming is bound to only grow with the current state of the world. Just make sure you aren’t selling that content though, lest you land yourself behind bars.