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MPA Welcomes DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas

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The TV, film and streaming production community says it is ready to partner with the Biden Administration and newly confirmed appointee Alejandro Mayorkas to combat digital video piracy.

Also Read: White House Says Pirated Video Streams Are Ongoing Concern

The Senate Tuesday (Feb. 2) confirmed Mayorkas as the new secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. One of DHS' roles is to oversee the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, which, as a part of the Global Trade Investigations Division, leads the government efort to combat global intellectual property theft, including the theft of streamed and downloaded video content.

"“The National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) stands at the forefront of protecting America’s creative community, and as Secretary Mayorkas works to protect American communities, the IPR Center will play a pivotal role in combatting online piracy and copyright enforcement," said Motion Picture Association Chairman Charles Rivkin. "Digital video piracy threatens creativity and innovation as it eliminates at least 230,000 American jobs and siphons more than $29.2 billion a year from the creative community. We stand ready to partner with Secretary Mayorkas to safeguard creators, including by forging voluntary public- and private-sector partnerships to curb piracy."

Rivkin said he was sure Secretary Mayorkas's agenda would help the pandemic-impacted video content business get back to production and the econmic engine that powers 2.5 million jobs.

Also Read: NCTA Says Getting Tough on Streaming Pirates Is Critical

Congress recently gave the government an additional, and long-sought-weapon in the fight against online streaming piracy, reclassifying thefts of video streams from a misdemeanor to a felony punishable by fines and prison time. The bill passed Dec. 21, 2021, as part of the must-pass omnibus government spending bill. It closed what had essentially been a loophole that punished illegally downloading copies of movies and TV shows more seriously than illegally streaming them, dating from when the former was far more prevalent than the latter.

The Obama Administration almost a decade ago asked Congress to "clarify" that streaming illegal content, as well as downloading it, was a felony, an effort pushed by then White House Intellectual Property Enforcement coordinator Victoria Espinel. 

That effort didn't bear fruit, likely because there was not the buy-in from studios and sports leagues and others that has emerged since the explosion of streaming services from studios and distributors. Sports, entertainment and live news programming are more likely to be illegally streamed than downloaded, and are now being streaming in abundance, so closing the loophole took on extra impetus, particularly during a pandemic when streaming is the new night out at the movies or night in with a favorite show.