Obama Administration Tussles With Copyright Issues; Proposes New Federal Laws To Protect Copyright Holders

Copyright has been a hotly debated issue for decades now. Its the reason consumers have to pay money to acquire CDs, DVDs and MP3s. The illegal streaming of copyrighted material has been a headache for the Obama administration, particularly because it does not currently constitute to a federal offense. A number of amendments to the copyright law have been proposed which will make the illegal streaming of audio and video a federal felony. FBI Agents would also have the right to be able to wiretap the people who are suspected to have breached this law.

According to the administration, there are many shortcomings which hinder the effective levying of the intellectual property laws currently in place. Congress is now tasked with the responsibility of making adjustments to the law to make it more fair and enforceable. A report on this topic was presented to the house by Victoria Espinel. Espinel is the first Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator and was confirmed by the Senate in December 2009. The report tackles the issues in intellectual property law which includes a range of issues – including counterfeit pharmaceuticals as well as the royalties generated overseas by copyright holders.

The key features of the report include:

  • The ambiguity over what constitutes illegal streaming of content. There are concerns that it does not fall under the scope of criminal law, and thus, cannot be prevented or restricted. The illegal contravention of copyrighted works shall be deemed to be a crime under the new law.

  • The effective inquiry of alleged infringement of copyrighted works should be made possible for the FBI by allowing wiretaps on suspected criminals. This will be an addition to the existing law which permits wiretaps in the case of reported terrorism activities being aided.

  • The copyright holders shall be allowed to file civil suits when devices or technology which can aid in the distribution of hardware or software illegally are imported into the country. The copyright holders will be duly informed and provided assistance should they end up in court.

There are many websites which do not originate from the US, but are a threat to the effective enforcement of US copyright laws. There is still debate over how best to manage these cases so the topic is far from resolved.

In a rarity, the report has been greeted with enthusiasm from all corners with both the Republicans and Democrats agreeing that piracy should be prevented at all costs. It seems this may be a unique case where we’ll see bi-partisan cooperation. Time will tell.

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