White House Seeks to Make Illegal Streaming a Federal Offense

WASHINGTON — The White House wants to change U.S. copyright law by making illegal streaming of audio or video a federal felony and allowing FBI agents to wiretap suspected infringers.

In a 20-page proposal, the Obama administration said it wants Congress to fix “deficiencies that could hinder enforcement” of intellectual property laws.

The White House said it’s concerned that “illegal streaming of content” may not be covered by criminal law and said, “questions have arisen about whether streaming constitutes the distribution of copyrighted works.” Therefore, it wants a new law to "clarify that infringement by streaming, or by means of other similar new technology, is a felony in appropriate circumstances."

The administration also said it wants to expand on wiretaps to include copyright and trademark infringement saying the move “would assist U.S. law enforcement agencies to effectively investigate those offenses.”

Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it’s generally illegal to distribute hardware or software that can circumvent copy protection technology. The administration is proposing that if officials seize such devices, they would be permitted to inform rights holders, provide samples of such devices and assist them in bringing civil actions.

Opponents of the proposal say it gives the government too much power.