North Carolina Republican Senator Thom Tillis is trying to pass legislation that would make streaming of copyrighted material a felony, rather than a misdemeanor, alongside a major government funding bill. The funding bill is considered a “must-pass” piece of legislation–the government will shut down if it doesn’t get approved.
The legislation would turn unauthorized commercial streaming of copyrighted material, which has been a major issue on platforms like Twitch recently, into a felony offense that could come with prison time. Twitch streamers have been getting waves of copyright strikes throughout 2020. Some streamers have had to go back and delete a number of their clips if they included any copyright-protected music.
Twitch apologized for its poor response to the wave of DMCA takedowns last month, but reiterated that the best defense to copyright strikes is to not stream copyrighted material.
Tillis’s push for a harsher punishment for streamers is a common tactic when Congress must past a spending bill like this one. Lawmakers insert controversial legislation that may not pass on its own because other lawmakers will be hesitant to oppose the overall spending bill. Tillis, who has been elected for another six-year term, received a number of donations from groups affiliated with entertainment companies, including the Motion Picture Association, Sony Pictures, NBCUniversal, and others, that have lobbied for the type of copyright enforcement in this proposed measure.
The text of the measure is not available to the public yet. The government will shut down if the omnibus spending bill does not pass by December 18.