US Senator wants Twitch streamers to face jail time for DMCA strikes

Isaac McIntyre
Senator Thom Tillis stands next to a phone with the Twitch logo on it.Thom Tillis Campaign Press Pool / Twitch

Twitch streamers may face jail time when they’re hit with multiple DMCA strikes on the Amazon-owned streaming platform, if a proposal from Senator Thom Tillis is successfully squeezed into congress’ eleventh-hour omnibus bill.

Congress often finds itself in situations where they must hustle through massive ‘omnibus bills’ in an effort to prevent a government shutdown. Senators use these “must-pass bills” to slip their controversial deals in, knowing they’ll have to be greenlit.

This time around, Senator Tillis is using the chance to take aim at copyrighted material being broadcast on Twitch, and shared in YouTube and Instagram videos.

The North Carolina representative believes law enforcement should be given “effective tools” to combat “unlawful copyright use.” Tillis’ felony streaming proposal, available to read online, recommends any streamer or creator who shares a song, album, or unauthorized video clip in a commercial setting should face a felony offense, with possible prison sentence.

The measure’s main aims are similar to the SOPA/PIPA bills which were first tabled in 2012, as well as the controversial CASE Act, which was passed in Oct. 2019.

Senator Thom Tillis is leading the controversial felony streaming proposal.Thom Tillis Campaign Press Pool
Senator Thom Tillis is leading the controversial felony streaming proposal.

Controversial bill already facing opposition

Since Tillis unveiled the proposal, many in the technology industry have come out against it. According to Protocol, as many as 18 organizations ⁠— including tech trade groups and advocacy organizations ⁠— have written to Congress begging them to decline the omnibus provision.

The letter, helmed by the Internet Association, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the American Library Association, detailed “major concerns” around the bill having a “negative impact on creators, internet users,” and more.

Katharine Trendacosta, associate director of policy and activism with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, also warned the bill would be a “chill on expression” if it was passed.

This could “ruin the lives of regular people… [and] the chance of a felony would impact both expression and innovation,” she continued. 

“People who are engage in things we do online: sharing memes, videos, and downloading images. We already see it’s hard enough in just civil copyright and the DMCA for people to feel comfortable asserting their rights.”

Twitch streamers may face jail time for DMCA charges if the new US bill passes.Twitch
Twitch streamers may face jail time for DMCA charges if the new US bill passes.

What does this mean for Twitch streamers?

Well, for now, nothing should change. Twitch streamers will still have to avoid DMCA strikes, but it’s still going to be a ‘slap on the wrist,’ rather than a jail cell.

Anyone sharing content on Twitch, YouTube, or Instagram should keep one eye on the bill, however. The situation is expected to be resolved soon, and if it falls against content creators it could change the DMCA saga all over again.

Judgement day for Tillis’ proposal ⁠— which includes the CASE Act and Trademark Modernization Act ⁠— is expected to be Dec. 11; congress has confirmed the bill must be passed before government’s 2020 shutdown on that date.

Amazon, which owns Twitch, has yet to publicly comment on the proposal.