Jail Time for Streaming Videos Is Just a Scare Tactic

Nicole Fabian-Weber

youtubeHey, remember a few years back when Napster and LimeWire were all the rage? And remember how you totally used them to illegally download Natalie Imbruglia songs you loved in secret but weren't willing to drop the cash for?

And then remember when things got a little dicey there for a minute and a few people got arrested (not you, bad things don't happen to you), so examples could be made of them? Well, it's happening again! Sort of.

Senators Amy Klobuchar and John Cornyn are trying to get a bill passed that would make streaming videos a felony with penalties up to five years in prison -- a far cry from dropping a check made out to the MPAA in the mail. The bill, however, would target operators and sharers, not watchers. So, don't worry. You can still watch 227 reruns during your lunch break.

Call me lax, or a die-hard 227 fan, but doesn't sitting in a prison with rapists and Bernie Madoffs seem a bit harsh for uploading a s**tty '80s sitcom? Other than to make examples, what's the point?

I hear the studio's argument: millions of dollars are lost by uploading Pirates of the Caribbean in 27 parts onto YouTube. But, wouldn't a hefty fine and strict liability just as well do the trick? In fact, wouldn't it do it better since taxpayers won't have to be the ones paying these "lost" profits?

And if we're going to go ahead with Klobuchar and Cornyn's bill, I say we make restrictions. Like, Warner Bros. shouldn't be able to arrest someone who's been watching episodes of Full House online because, A) isn't getting caught watching Full House punishment enough? And B) Warner Bros. wouldn't be losing out on money in such an instance. The person who's watching Danny Tanner lecture DJ and Steph after 19 minutes of wacky hi-jinx wasn't going to buy the DVD or TiVo it. They're watching it because it's there. They're watching it because somebody next to them just made a Full House reference, which, in turn, sparked a "Let's see if we can find it on YouTube" hunt. They're watching it because they're bored at work and wanted a respite from coming up with synonyms for the word "assistant" while working on their resume.

In these instances, studios need to not only accept the fact that there was a date on their show (the Debbie Gibson reference seemed like a good idea at the time), they also need to understand that they aren't seeing a loss of profit from sites that stream videos. Actually, if you think about it, the sites are only helping their long-expired programs in these cases. Because if it weren't for them, who would give a crap about their shows?

Do you think prison is a reasonable fine for streaming?


Image via mauritsonline/Flickr

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