Sweeping Revisions in Copyright Law Sought by the White House

Sweeping Revisions in Copyright Law Sought by the White House


The White House today has proposed a comprehensive revision to the U.S. copyright law. Officials wanted to classify “illegal streaming” of audio or video a federal felony and authorize FBI agents in wiretapping suspected infringers.

The Obama administration, in a 20-page white paper, called on the United States Congress to fix “deficiencies that could hinder enforcement” of various intellectual property laws.

The first Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, Victoria Espinel, who received Senate confirmation in December of 2009, prepared the report. The report also proposed the tightening of many types of intellectual property laws, including those that deal with counterfeit pharmaceuticals, as well as overseas royalties for holders of copyright.

The report also highlighted the concern of the White House that “illegal streaming of content” are not covered by criminal law and saying that “questions have arisen about whether streaming constitutes the distribution of copyrighted works.”

It stated that in order to resolve this particular ambiguity, a new law must be passed “clarifying that infringement by streaming, or by means of other similar new technology, is a felony in appropriate circumstances.”

Under federal laws, a wiretap can only be performed in investigations of serious crimes, a list which has been expanded by the 2001 Patriot Act to include offenses like material support of terrorism and the use of weapons of mass destruction.

The Obama administration is proposing that copyright and trademark infringement be added to the list, arguing that the move “would assist U.S. law enforcement agencies to effectively investigate those offenses.”