FOLLOW THE STREAM TOWARDS A FELONY
The Protecting Lawful Streaming Act makes it a felony to engage in large-scale streaming of copyright material. The introduction of this law took place on December 10th, 2020. The law pertains to the increased concern surrounding live audio and video streaming in recent years. Specifically, such streaming has transformed society and become one of the most influential ways society chooses to enjoy various forms of content. Yet, the growth of legitimate streaming services has continuously been accompanied and disturbed by unlawful streaming of copyright materials. Initially, the illegal streaming of copyright material was only a misdemeanor until the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act became a part of America’s newest addition to the law.
Under the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act, a person must act:
- For purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain.
- Offer or provide to the public a digital transmission service.
ALL FOR ONE, ONE FOR ALL
The law’s enactment incentivizes those who indulge in hosting illegal streams subjects them to severe criminal penalties. Accordingly, anyone who hosts an illegal stream that not only infringes upon copyright material but also obtains an economic benefit will now face felony charges. Many fail to recognize that while the individual responsible for hosting the illegal stream faces criminal charges, any individual who merely partakes in viewing this infringement does not technically violate any criminal law. Therefore, illegal streams that host hundreds and even thousands of viewers allow for no criminal action to be taken or even threatened to all these spectators. Instead, the focus is entirely on the host of this illegal stream.
PLATFORMS ENGINEERING IS PERFECTLY IMPERFECT
The question then becomes, what does social media do with illegal streaming? For starters, social media platforms serve as one of, if not the most, influential ways illegal streams reach society. Social media platform designs focus on spreading information. They not only spread information but essentially take information and provide the capability to have it worldwide within seconds. As such, these platform’s engineering do precisely what illegal streaming hosts want. That is to expose these streams to millions of individuals who may indulge and use copyright material for their benefit. Social media’s capabilities of utilizing hashtags, likes, shares, and other methods of expansion through social media allow hosts to capitalize on these platform’s designs to take advantage for their own personal and financial gain.
NOT MY MESS, NOT MY PROBLEM
Social media platforms are not liable for copyright material exposure on their platforms. According to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the only requirement is that these platforms must take prompt action when contacted by the rights holders. However, the statistics have shown thus far that social media platforms fail to take the initiative and are generally unwilling to address this ongoing concern. The argument on behalf of social media platforms is that the duty is not on their behalf but on the rights holders to report an infringement. With this belief, social media platforms could take a more significant initiative to address this concern of illegal streaming. While social media platforms have at least some implementations to help prevent infringement of owner’s work, the system is flawed, with many unresolved areas of concern. Current measures in place by themselves fail to provide reassurance that they can protect the content of the actual owner from being exploited for the financial benefit of illegal streaming hosts around the world.
MORE MONEY, MORE PROBLEMS
The question then becomes, how many illegal streaming services impact people? Major entertainment networks such as the NFL, NBA, and UFC are just a few examples of illegal streaming threatening their businesses’ most critical revenue stream. That being the television viewership. Not only this but even movie and non-sport television programs are reported to have lost billions of dollars to the hands of illegal streaming. Thus, by enacting the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act, the goal is to deter harmful criminal activity and simultaneously protect the rights of creators and copyright owners.
Furthermore, the individual people would least expect to be harmed by illegal streaming is also in jeopardy. That being themselves! Illegal streams cause various risks of malicious software that can infect one’s device. This exposure puts individuals’ personal information at risk. It is subject to several casualties, such as identity fraud, financial loss, and permanent damage to devices that watch these illegal streaming services.
WHAT’S MINE IS YOURS
Society must recognize and address how individuals can counteract illegal streaming legally yet unfairly. For instance, an individual who legally purchases a pay-per-view event and then live streams this on their social media for others to also spectate. Someone can lawfully buy the stream and not be subject to being host to an illegal stream. Yet, the same issue arises. The owners of this content are stuck with no resolution and lose out on potential revenue. Rather than these individuals all purchasing the content for themselves, one is used as a sacrifice while the others reap the same benefit without costing a dime. The same scenario can arise where individuals gather in one home to watch a pay-per-view or a movie on demand. This conduct is not illegal, but it negates the potential revenue these industries may obtain. Such a solution was, is, and consistently will be recognized as legal activity.
AN ISSUE, BUT NOT AN ISSUE WORTH SOLVING
Even streaming platforms like Netflix fail to take any measures regarding not necessarily illegally streaming its content but sharing passwords for one account. Although such conduct can be subject to civil liability in a breach of its contractual terms or even criminal liability if fraud is determined, these platforms fail to take proper measures against this behavior. Ultimately, moving forward on these actions would be too costly and can result in losing viewership through this sort of conduct.
Through these findings, it’s clear that illegal streaming has and continues to take advantage of the actual copyright owners of this material. The Protecting Lawful Streaming Act was society’s most recent attempt to minimize this ongoing issue through an effort to increase the criminal penalty and deter such conduct. Yet, based on the inability to identify and diminish these illegal streams on social media, many continue to get away with this behavior daily. The legal loopholes discussed above prove that entertainment industries may never see the revenue stream they anticipate. Only time will tell how society responds to this predicament and whether some law will address it in the foreseeable future. If the law were to hold higher standards for social media platforms to take accountability for this conduct, would it make a difference? Even so, would the minimization of social media’s influence on the spread of illegal streams even have a lasting impact?