House And Senate Address Copyright Issues

June 27, 2011 -- 10:24 am PDT

Following GRAMMYs on the Hill Advocacy Day on April 14, Congress has taken noticeably peaked interested in copyright issues.

On May 16 Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced legislation to counter "rogue websites" that trade almost entirely in goods that infringe intellectual property, including music. The introduction of this legislation came 28 days after GRAMMYs on the Hill Advocacy Day, during which Academy members lobbied for such legislation.

The Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act, or PROTECT IP Act (S. 968), narrows the definition of a rogue website while ensuring that law enforcement can pursue the "worst-of-the-worst" websites dedicated to selling infringing goods.

The PROTECT IP Act will provide law enforcement with important tools to stop websites dedicated to online piracy and the sale of counterfeit goods, which range from new movie and music releases to pharmaceuticals and consumer products.

The day after introduction, Leahy's lead IP counsel wrote The Recording Academy to thank its members for supporting the legislation at GRAMMYs on the Hill.

On June 16 the Senate Judiciary Committee took up another copyright issue, passing it through committee. The Commercial Felony Streaming Act (S. 978), which is co-sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), seeks to make it a felony to illegally stream copyrighted content for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain, upgrading such an offense from a misdemeanor. The measure would put online streaming in line with illegally providing copyrighted content for download.

On June 1 the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the same issue. While there was no specific legislation regarding illegal streaming discussed, the hearing witnesses — including Sandra Aistars, executive director, Copyright Alliance; Michael O'Leary, executive vice president of government affairs, MPAA; and Maria Pallante, U.S. Register of Copyrights — agreed that illegal streaming should be considered a felony offense with criminal charges attached.