Skip to main content

Pallante: Large-Scale Illegal Internet Streaming Should Be Felony

At a Hill hearing Wednesday, register of copyrights Maria
Pallante stood up for content creators and pushed for Congress to close a
loophole in the law and makes illegal streaming of content over the Internet a
felony rather than a misdemeanor.

Pallante was the sole witness at a hearing in the House
Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet on her
recommendations for revisiting copyright law to square it with the digital age
and new ways to distribute content.

She made it clear that she was talking about tools to go
after large piracy groups and enterprises, not the student downloading music in
their dorm room, and in the criminal context, "egregious, criminal
conduct," she said, at the "worst, purposeful levels."

But she suggested those tools should include criminal
penalties for illegal streams, just as there are for distribution of copies of
physical works.

"Law enforcement can go over reproduction and
distribution, and they can go after that in a meaningful way because those are
felonies. But the public performance right, which is implicated by streaming --
performing the work but not necessarily downloading it or streaming a copy, whether
it's a football game or music -- is a misdemeanor."

As she indicated in her prepared testimony, Pallante
emphasized to the subcommittee that authors and content creators large and
small are at the heart of the public interest, explaining that notion came from
James Madison.

She said that one problem with copyright law was it had
gotten away from putting authors as the primary beneficiaries of the law,
followed by the public good. She said she believed in fair use and access, but
not at the expense of the creators.

"People do not have the right to have whatever they
want whenever they want it for free," she said.

Pallante was asked how successful the
"notice and takedown" enforcement regime has been. She said the
"next great copyright act" should look at how effective that has been
and there were arguments on both sides.