Editor’s Note: Gale Anne Hurd, film and television producer whose Terminator trilogy, Extraterrestrials, Armageddon and The walking dead, writes about the recent passage of a new copyright provision that targets streaming piracy, making it a crime to operate a service on a large scale for profit.
I am neither a lawyer nor a politician; I am a filmmaker. With a lot of hard work and good luck, I have had a successful 40 year career in the entertainment industry. Therefore, I feel responsible for speaking on behalf of those who are striving to establish themselves in the creative community. And that’s why I celebrate and give thanks when Congress stands up for our community – as it did with the recent passage of the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act (PLSA).
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The law, which subjects large-scale streaming hacking operations to felony prosecution, was attached to the spending omnibus bill designed to provide relief to individuals and businesses struggling during the pandemic. Among those suffering are the 2.6 million hardworking workers employed by the film and television industry. Their pain, as a result of production stoppages and layoffs, has been compounded by the meteoric rise in illegal streaming.
Piracy has been around forever, and I’ve been dealing with it in one form or another throughout my career – starting with pirated VHS copies of my original. Terminator films were sold on street corners. But the damage we suffered from bootlegs was peanuts compared to current internet piracy. Multinational criminal enterprises now offer monthly subscriptions to streaming services with names like Lazer IPTV and Pegasus, selling libraries of stolen content that are as easy to use as Netflix – but much larger – and that include live channels. direct from around the world.
Even before the pandemic, continuous hacking cost the US economy at least $ 29.2 billion each year, 230,000 to 560,000 jobs and $ 47.5 billion in reduced GDP each year. Now that the world’s population has been taking refuge there for over 10 months, streaming hacking has unfortunately become more popular than ever. Between February and March, according to British analytics firm MUSO, there were nearly a billion visits to hacking sites in the United States alone, which is a 60% increase from the start of the year. year.
One would think that the law could discourage this massive and worldwide theft of copyright. But this is not the case, as the law does not contemplate streaming technology.
The last major update to the penalties for distributing unlicensed creative work dates back decades, when no one could have conceived of streaming piracy. This is why, until recently, a criminal profiting from illegal DVDs or peer-to-peer downloads in the United States could be charged with felonies carrying fines and jail time, but a pirate offering a service much more dangerous streaming (streaming now includes 80). % of all hacking) could only be charged with a misdemeanor.
But now, with the passage of the PLSA, US law enforcement can finally begin to shut down these for-profit criminal enterprises. With its passage, we can predict that legal digital sales and rentals will increase by 10%, which will put billions of dollars in stolen income back into the struggling legal economy, helping bring back jobs for creatives who have been hard hit. affected. by the pandemic.
More importantly, this law was carefully negotiated – and user groups were at the table. The PLSA only targets commercial criminal operations that are dedicated exclusively to the streaming of unlicensed works. The anti-copyright and pro-Big Tech contingent has desperately tried to portray the law as a threat to innocent internet users. This argument is patently false – home audiences who use these services will not be prosecuted.
Video piracy hurts creatives and the US economy, but it also hurts consumers in ways they wouldn’t know about, as one in three hacker sites infects users with malware or other harmful code. By cracking down on these sites, the PLSA will make it harder for innocent users to stumble upon hacker websites that distribute malware, thereby giving hackers access to our banking information, identity, or credit cards.
But perhaps the most lasting effect of the new law will be to deter potential criminals in the first place. In 2012, the notorious hacker site Megaupload, with 180 million registered users and an average of 50 million daily visits, was shut down by the FBI and its founders were indicted. After that, a number of other criminal enterprises that stole our movies and TV series either changed their business models or shut down completely. The hacking didn’t stop, it slowed down. Now, the ability to use the PLSA to shut down similar sites will help deter future streaming pirates from setting up similar operations.
Creative advocates have been trying to close the streaming gap in copyright law for years and have been blocked by opposition from copyright skeptics and big tech interests. Then again, if I’ve learned anything from producing sci-fi movies, it’s that sometimes it takes humans a while to understand the harms that technology can bring before they are smart enough to master them. .
By adding the PLSA to a pandemic relief bill meant to help Americans now, members of Congress have offered a lifeline to creatives for decades to come. From the bottom of my heart, I thank them.