In the latest omnibus spending bill making its way through Congress, a provision has been added that would effectively render the streaming of copyrighted music without permission a felony offense.
The provision has been added to the bill by Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina. If passed, the provision would likely land streaming platforms—including Twitch—in more hot water, as the video giant has continued to butt heads with major labels and copyright representatives for much of 2020. This fall, Twitch introduced what they claimed was a fully licensed product called "Soundtrack by Twitch," which purportedly allowed streamers to play music without fear of being issued a DMCA takedown. However, the Recording Academy and the RIAA, among other organizations, rebutted and suggested that the licensing behind the product was not sufficient.
Senator Tillis' provision, if passed, means creators charged with this crime could face jail time. Tillis is the chairman of the Intellectual Property Subcommittee, and according to The American Prospect, his recent re-election campaign was funded by major copyright stakeholders, including major labels. Also included in the bill is the controversial CASE Act, which would create a small claims court within the US Copyright Office to handle copyright disputes. Critics say the bill would give major companies the wherewithal to seek damages from ordinary Internet users.
Mike Lemon, Senior Director of the Internet Association, condemned the idea of including such aggressive provisions in a must-pass spending bill. The association represents a number of big tech players, including Twitch's parent company, Amazon. "Copyright and trademark reform are important policy issues that warrant fulsome, measured debate," Lemon stated. "Jamming such significant measures into a government funding bill is bad policymaking."