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Joint Statement from AFTRA, DGA, IATSE and SAG Commending Legislation to Make Illegal Streaming a Felony

Posted May 12, 2011

Los Angeles (May 12, 2011) – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), Directors Guild of America (DGA), International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, Its Territories and Canada (IATSE), and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) today released the following statement:

“As the Guilds and Unions that represent 300,000 creators, performers and craftspeople who create a multitude of diverse films, television programs and sound recordings that are enjoyed by consumers across the globe, we applaud Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Cornyn (R-TX) who were joined by Christopher Coons (D-DE) for their leadership in today introducing legislation (s. 978) to remove unwarranted obstacles to the prosecution of websites that willfully and illegally stream valuable copyrighted works for commercial advantage or private financial gain.  

“While illegal downloading of our members’ creative works remains the best known method of Internet theft, illegal Internet streaming has actually become the preferred viewing and listening experience.  Unfortunately, the law has not kept pace with these new consumer habits.  While illegal downloading and distribution is a felony, the illegal, willful, and commercial streaming of films, TV programs, and music remains only a misdemeanor.

“As a lawyer and former prosecutor, Senator Klobuchar understands why current law effectively prevents law enforcement from going after those who commercially traffic in illegal streams of copyrighted works.  Likewise, Senator Cornyn’s experience as Texas Attorney General and a district court judge give him a unique perspective on the need to reform current law to address the increasing threat of illegal streaming to creators’ livelihoods.  Senator Coons bring a valuable perspective as a new U.S. Senator who is committed to these issues. 

“The sponsors of this bill are not alone in recognizing the need to address this problem. In March, Victoria Espinel, the Administration’s Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, issued a series of legislative recommendations on behalf of the Obama Administration to enhance the protection of intellectual property; chief among them is a recommendation to enable felony prosecution of illegal, willful, and commercial streaming and by means of other new technologies.  We commend the Administration for recognizing the critical need for US laws to take into account changes in the technologies that can be corrupted by Internet criminals.

“We are also well aware that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith has a longstanding interest in addressing this problem, and we look forward to working with him, along with Senators Klobuchar, Cornyn and Coons, to ensure that online looting does not decimate our members’ ability to earn a living.”

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, AFL-CIO, are the people who entertain and inform America. In 32 Locals across the country, AFTRA members work as actors, broadcasters, singers, dancers, announcers, hosts, comedians, disc jockeys, and other performers across the media industries including television, radio, cable, sound recordings, music videos, commercials, audio books, non-broadcast industrials, interactive games, the Internet and other digital media. The 70,000 professional performers, broadcasters, and recording artists of AFTRA are working together to protect and improve their jobs, lives, and communities in the 21st century. From new art forms to new technology, AFTRA members embrace change in their work and craft to enhance American culture and society. Visit AFTRA online at www.aftra.com.

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