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Fate of Streaming Bill Unclear

Capitol Hill
(Image credit: Architect of the Capitol)

At press time it was not clear whether or not the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act was going to make it into the final version of the $1.4 billion omnibus spending bill that the House was working on Friday to try and prevent a government shutdown.

The Tillis bill would make illegal streaming of copyrighted content a felony--fines and potential prison time--rather than the misdemeanor it currently is.

A staffer in the office of Thom Tillis (R-N.C), who introduced the bill, said that discussions Thursday night included how to attach that bill to the larger one, but that they were still waiting on final text and could not say whether or not it would be.

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House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-M.D.) said both sides were working hard to get to an agreement and avoid a shut-down at midnight Friday. At press time the House was in recess until 5 p.m. so they could continue to hammer out that agreement.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) said they "were not quite there" on all the details of the bill.

Hoyer urged his members to keep "tonight free, tomorrow free, Sunday free, and any days thereafter," though he hoped none of that would be necessary.

The longer the talking goes, the more likely that any add-ons that don't have bipartisan buy-in will not get on the bill. Working in the streaming bill's favor is that it has powerful Democrats as well as Republicans behind it, with both sides recognizing the rise in importance of streaming video in a pandemic-sequestered populace glued to the Netflixes and Hulus of the world and the need to protect that business model from digital pirates.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.