The new head of the U.S. Copyright Office says that illegal video streaming should be a felony. The new Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante spent her first day testifying at a House Judiciary Committee hearing, giving her approval to the IP Enforcement Czar’s recommendation that the government should stop treating illegal streaming offenses as "unauthorized performances" and start classifying it as a serious crime, or "unauthorized reproductions and distributions." The White House backs the IP Czar’s recommendations. This would turn illegal streaming into a felony – up from a less serious misdemeanor charge.
Pallante said the following before the House Judiciary Committee hearing:
"One might ask why it is not sufficient to prosecute streaming as a misdemeanor. The fact is, as a practical matter, prosecutors have little incentive to file charges for a mere misdemeanor. This means that compared to similar infringing conduct involving the large-scale making or distributing copies (e.g. DVDs of a movie), streaming is not only a lesser crime on the books, it is a crime that may never be punished at all. As a matter of policy, the public performance right should enjoy the same measure of protection from criminals as the reproduction and distribution rights; prosecutors should have the option of seeking felony penalties for such activity, when appropriate."
As Ars Technica points out: "..an online stream is not necessarily a ‘reproduction’ or ‘distribution’ under the Copyright Act, but is instead a ‘public performance.’ And such unauthorized public performances are currently held to a different legal standard."