Last year, the wildly unpopular Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) was defeated by activists. But that hasn’t deterred the Administration of President Barack Obama. His Department of Commerce is set to revive a provision of SOPA that would increase the penalties for streaming copyrighted work on video sharing websites.
The Commerce Department’s Internet Policy Task Force is petitioning Congress to reconsider a section of SOPA that would heavily penalize people who upload copyright-protected content to streaming services.
In a recent report, titled “Copyright Policy, Creativity and Innovation in the Digital Economy,” the task force explains that the only way for the government to protect copyright holders is to impose felony convictions for people caught streaming copyrighted songs, music and movies. The legislation advocated by the task force would also prohibit Internet users from uploading parodies and covers of certain copyrighted work.
Currently, it is a misdemeanor to upload copyrighted videos or songs to streaming sites like YouTube, but the law is loosely enforced.
The portion of SOPA to be revived, Section 201, would impose the “same range of penalties for criminal streaming of copyrighted works to the public as now exists for criminal reproduction and distribution.”
From the Internet Policy Task Force report:
In recent years a number of licensed online video streaming services have launched, and many cable television providers offer extensive on-demand catalogs to their subscribers. Other services have launched without licenses, using technology developed to transmit individual streams from individually-made copies, rather than broadcasting to the public from a single source copy. These services, which rely on recent case law in the context of a cable operator with underlying content licenses, pose a challenge to the traditional dividing lines between public and private performance, and raise a host of questions. If any consumer can stream the content she wants on-demand, is this act ‘public’ as defined by the Copyright Act if the technology is structured so that the stream comes from a copy made by a third party for each individual? Does it make a difference if the consumer already has legal access in another form to the content being streamed? Does it matter how the source copies are made, and by whom? Such interpretive tensions in the face of changing delivery models are the inevitable result of a system based on a bundle of specific rights, each drafted in the context of then-existing technologies…
…The lack of potential felony penalties for criminal acts of streaming disincentivizes prosecution and undermines deterrence.The administration and the Copyright Office have both called on Congress to amend the Copyright Act to ensure that illegal streaming to the public can be punished as a felony in the same manner as other types of criminal infringement.The Task Force now repeats that call.
Critics of the plan say that the push is an example of the overbearing influence of Hollywood in the halls of Washington.