Ghost of SOPA: Streaming copyright material could become felony

While the act was roundly defeated in 2012, one provision could still push through

Topics: sopa, livestreaming, Copyright, Intellectual Property, Piracy, felony, YouTube, , ,

Ghost of SOPA: Streaming copyright material could become felony (Credit: Shutterstock)

Following a powerful online campaign, backed by Internet giants like Wikipedia and Mozilla, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) roundly failed to gain purchase in Congress. However, one provision from the bill, which would drastically increase the punishment for online streaming of copyrighted materials, might still sneak through. The legislation could impact everyone from sites that illegally stream movies to fans who upload cover songs to YouTube.

The Washington Post reported this week:

Last week, the Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force released a report on digital copyright policy that endorsed one piece of the controversial proposal: making the streaming of copyrighted works a felony.

As it stands now, streaming a copyrighted work over the Internet is considered a violation of the public performance right. The violation is only punishable as a misdemeanor, rather than the felony charges that accompany the reproduction and distribution of copyrighted material.

SOPA attempted to change that in Section 201, aptly titled “Streaming of copyrighted works in violation of criminal law.” Some have suggested that the SOPA version and an earlier stand-alone piece of legislation from Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) would have criminalized covers of songs shared on Youtube.


Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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