Illegal Streaming Could Soon Become a Felony Offense…

Criminal streaming of copyrighted works is currently considered to be a violation of the public performance right, and so only punishable as a misdemeanour.  But the US Department of Commerce Internet Policy Task Force is now looking to make it a felony on par with criminal reproduction and distribution.

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The Task Force’s argument for the change appears pretty sound: as the way we “consume content” changes, so should the law. Criminal streaming is clearly a bigger issue for TV and movie companies than downloading, these days, as it competes with legal streaming platforms such as Netflix.   But it’s also a thorny issue for legal music services such as Spotify.

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Unsurprisingly some tech bloggers have attacked the suggestion.

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But the SOPA sticking point that triggered the internet “blackout” protest, DNS blocking, appears to be off the table. The report states that “while online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global internet”.

Though, of course, it can be argued that several European countries, including Denmark and the UK, have blocked sites such as The Pirate Bay and Newzbin1 without any repercussions in those fields.

Still, there are other issues in the 122 page document that could have major implications for the music industry – in particular regarding licensing.  It acknowledges that music licensing is particularly complex, pointing to the fact that non-interactive streaming services such as Sirius XM and Pandora only need a statutory licence for the recordings and public performance licenses from PROs (ASCAP and BMI) or individual publishers – but interactive streaming services such as Spotify need individual licenses from labels and both public performance and mechanical (reproduction) licenses from individual publishers.

The solution, it suggests, could be “legislative adjustments” converting mechanical licensing into collective blanket licensing. Considering that all the major publishers are moving away from collective licensing by pulling their digital licensing rights from PROs in order to negotiate their own deals with music services (note how SonyATV negotiated its own deal with Pandora and managed to increase its royalty rate), this recommendation will come up against considerable resistance.

A prominent recommendation in the report may, however, put a big smile on the faces of artists and labels alike: extending the public performance right for sound recordings to cover broadcasting.

 

The full report.

10 Responses

  1. Visitor
    Visitor

    “Criminal streaming of copyrighted works is currently considered to be a violation of the public performance right, and so only punishable as a misdemeanour. But the US Department of Commerce Internet Policy Task Force is now looking to make it a felony on par with criminal reproduction and distribution.”

    Awesome!

    Reply
  2. Casey
    Casey

    They can make illegal streaming a felony, but it’s already illegal. You can already face massive fines for copyright infringement. That hasn’t stopped anyone because the risk of being caught is almost nonexistent.

    I’ll never understand why streaming is treated differently than downloading. When you stream something, you download it.

    Reply
      • Casey
        Casey

        I don’t know about that. Most people would rather face a little jail time than a lifetime of financial ruin.

        Reply
    • Visitor
      Visitor

      “You can already face massive fines for copyright infringement. That hasn’t stopped anyone”

      Hm, could that be the reason why the Task Force now is going to launch new and highly improved anti-piracy measures?

      Just a theory…

      Reply
  3. fuckers
    fuckers

    The Task Force will solicit public comment and convene roundtables on issues related to the creation of remixes and the first sale doctrine in the digital environment

    Translation:

    Amazon wants to resell mp3s and Bezos will use social media to push for it.

    Reply
  4. Martin
    Martin

    Talk about massive overkill for something that’s already headed toward decriminalization by necessity. I respect the artists, so I stream with torch music since I know they’ll get their cut, but I also know that the days of considering taking copyrighted material to be a criminal act are limited. We’re only headed in one direction, and it doesn’t involve felonies.

    Reply
    • Visitor
      Visitor

      “but I also know that the days of considering taking copyrighted material to be a criminal act are limited”

      Man, you couldn’t possibly be more wrong if you tried. 🙂

      Almost every day brings fantastic news for musicians and rightholders at the moment.

      New anti-piracy laws/measures/technology/enforcement etc. pop up all around the globe like we’ve never seen it before.

      All facts now indicate that we can indeed stop mainstream piracy.

      And that’s the best news any music lover could hope for!

      Reply
      • spinoza
        spinoza

        as clumsy and incomprehensible as it will be to practically everyone, including lots of people who have livelihoods involved, copyright’s headed for a period of big old high-profile legal rangles.

        You couldn’t be more wrong if you imagine the direction is pretty well-settled

        Reply

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