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White House Wants Congressional Clarity That Illegal Streaming Can Be Felony

The Obama Administration
is recommending that Congress clarify that streaming illegal content, in addition to downloading it, can be a

That is one of a
host of legislative recommendations by Intellectual Property Enforcement
Coordinator Victoria Espinel in a just-released White Paper on
intellectual property enforcement and protection.

The administration has
also proposed establishing a performance copyright for radio broadcasts,
which broadcasters have been battling as a "performance tax."

Espinel points out
that under existing law, it is unclear that streaming copyrighted work can be
subject to a felony penalties because such penalties are "predicated on
the defendant either illegally reproducing or distributing the copyrighted
work." While, intuitively, streaming would seem to pretty clearly be
distribution, there has been some legal question about that designation.

"To ensure that
Federal copyright law keeps pace with infringers, and to ensure that DOJ and
U.S. law enforcement agencies are able to effectively combat infringement involving new
technology, the
Administration recommends that Congress clarify that infringement by streaming,
or by means of other similar new technology, is a felony in appropriate circumstances."

The report says the
radio performance right will, at least partly, allow copyright owners to collect
fees internationally. The National Association of Broadasters offered a legislative packagetaht it said would "unlock" that overseas money and indicated Tuesday it was ready to work with the music labels to pass that bill in this Congress.

"The recommendations
largely address important areas of intellectual property enforcement that are
often overlooked in more contentious debates at the edges of these
issues," said Public Knowledge President Gigi Sohn. "While there
may be room for disagreement on specific methods of implementation,
Victoria Espinel has compiled a thoughtful list of targeted
recommendations for enforcement."

 "We note as well her
advocacy on behalf of a public performance right for copyright owners for
material which is broadcast. While this seems tangentially related to an
enforcement agenda, performing artists deservingly stand to benefit from such a

"Closing the legal gap between two methods of equally destructive illegal behavior - unauthorized downloading and streaming - adds more clarity to intellectual property law and, frankly, makes good common sense," said MPAA President said MPAA President Bob Pisano. "Both the House and Senate are examining this issue and we look closely to working with them and the Administration to combat this escalating threat."