(This article ran in the TheHill.com on December 3, 2015)
By: Mike Montgomery
Recently, the idea of felony streaming once again reared its ugly head. Making streaming copyright infringement a felony is a terrible idea and an example of backward thinking that creates further rifts between tech and entertainment at a time when these two sectors are not only reliant upon one another, but melding. As some may recall, this kind of backward thinking famously and furiously failed before when it was a key part of the ill-conceived effort known as SOPA-PIPA (Stop Internet Piracy Act / Protect IP Act). So strong was the backlash against these would-be laws and their breathtaking overreach, to this day, the term “SOPA-PIPA” sends chills down the spines of lawmakers.
And rightly so. When it was first proposed in 2011, millions of Internet users demanded it be shut down. YouTubers, on the forefront of the new entertainment industry, worried that uploading images of video games or parts of songs could suddenly land them in jail. Wikipedia, Google and an estimated 7,000 other websites coordinated a day-long service blackout in protest against the bill. One petition drive attracted seven million signatures. Companies and organizations that supported the legislation were boycotted. Even the White House’s Senior Intellectual Property Enforcement official at the time, responding to a We The People Petition against the legislation, vowed to oppose any legislation that would chill innovation and free expression. Much to the relief of many lawmakers, the bill was quietly set aside.