Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante says that copyright laws need to be updated to “ensure the same tools exist for prosecution” of those who violate the “exclusive right of public performance” as there currently exist for “protecting “exclusive rights of reproduction and distribution.”
The Register of Copyrights, the Honorable Maria Pallante, testified before the the House Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet yesterday about the need for increasing penalties for illegally streaming copyrighted material.
At the hearing, titled “Promoting Investment and Protecting Commerce Online: The ART Act, the NET Act and Illegal Streaming,” Pallante says illegal streamers “usurp the economic value” copyright holders depend upon to create the incentive for and means to create new content.
“In our analysis, the current criminal provisions of the Copyright Act and related provisions in Title 18 are insufficient to provide a basis for such prosecutions in cases where the primary cause of action is infringement of the exclusive right of public performance,” she said.
She says that up until now copyright laws have largely focused on “violations of the reproduction and distribution rights” while illegal streaming of copyrighted material has become easier and more “attractive to infringers.”
Pallante told the subcommittee that copyright laws need to be updated to “ensure the same tools exist for prosecution” of those who violate the “exclusive right of public performance” as there currently exist for “protecting “exclusive rights of reproduction and distribution.”
Where it gets interesting is her admission of the different challenges posed by illegal streaming.
First, she notes that “not all of them act for purposes of financial gain.”
Some have no profit motive at all, yet cause great damage all the same by infringing purposely and irresponsibly,” she said.
The fact that some, and I’d argue many, don’t charge viewers to stream copyrighted material in turn menas that many of those viewers aren’t necessarily people that would have otherwise paid to see it. Sometimes the fact that it’s free is reason alone to consume something (Far Cry anyone?).
Second, is the fact that Pallante says her office is “not aware of any studies focusing solely on the overall impact of illegal streaming on the Internet ecosystem.” She’s concerned that what she considers a “significant problem…will only increase in severity if technology outpaces legal reforms.”
As it stands now criminal infringement of the public performance right is only a misdemeanor, and therefore prosecutors are loathe to expend time and resources on the matter. Making the crime felony would increase the incentive for prosecution, she argues.
The problem is that most, if not all of these sites, are hosted overseas. How do US prosecutors plan to try and convict foreign nationals for felony copyright violations?
A better solution to the problem would be to increase the selection and availability of copyrighted material you can legally stream online.