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US feds: 'Let's make streaming copyrighted content a FELONY'

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A report by the US Department of Commerce's Internet Policy Task Force recommends that the government make the streaming of copyrighted material a felony.

Currently, streaming content is a simple misdemeanor that breaches rules on violation of the public-performance right, but the report recommends upping the penalty to felony status for those who push out audio and video material for which they haven't paid royalties.

The report recommends "assessing and improving enforcement tools to combat online infringement and promote the growth of legitimate services while preserving the essential functioning of the Internet."

Therefore, "The Task Force repeats the Administration's prior call for Congress to enact legislation adopting the same range of penalties for criminal streaming of copyrighted works."

That prior call for increased penalties was contained in the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which was defeated last year after a wave of protest from internet users and heavy lobbying by technology companies such as Google.

While there's a lot of illegally streamed content out there, its popularity seems to be tied to the availability, or lack of it, of legal alternatives. Countries with legal streaming services show a marked decrease in this kind of piracy, but it seems the lawmakers think they know best and serious criminal sanctions are needed. ®

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