Any serious denizen of the internet remembers the uproar over the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, of 2012. The act was intended to do just about what its title describes; strengthen laws designed to battle copyright infringement and the sale of counterfeit goods on the web. Those in favor said it would boost the protection of online intellectual property. Those opposed said it would threaten innovation and give enforcement too much power over internet domains. Many sites protested via a web blackout, most famously English Wikipedia and Google.
Anyway, the protests seemed to have worked, as the vote for SOPA was indefinitely postponed. But now it seems that the Obama administration is attempting to revive part of it.
The Washington Post is reporting that the United States Department of Commerce has recently released a report endorsing a section of SOPA that would make it a felony to illegally stream copyrighted material online, raising the level of the penalty from its previous misdemeanor status.
Of course, the reproduction and distribution of copyrighted material online is a felony. The Post reports that “as it stands now, streaming a copyrighted work over the Internet is considered a violation of the public performance right.” The US Department of Commerce’s report notes that ““[s]ince the most recent updates to the criminal copyright provisions, streaming (both audio and video) has become a significant if not dominant means for consumers to enjoy content online” and should therefore be further criminalized.
Though we expect that this smaller recommendation will not incite nearly as much outrage as the bill from which it originates, we’re hopeful that these more extreme measures will not be taken. In the meantime, be careful about what you stream, and stick with VPNs to ensure the most online anonymity that can be achieved.