Two prominent filmmaker groups are urging the US government to criminalize streaming piracy, which they say will "level the playing field" when it comes to piracy.
Under current laws, those who upload copyrighted content for illegal streaming online, and those who offer the same content for downloading or file sharing are treated different. The former is considered as a form of "public performance", while the latter is considered distribution.
As a result, the penalties for both types of offences differ, with distribution treated as a felony, while streaming is only a misdemeanor.
This, the Directors Guild of America, Inc. (DGA) and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) say, is hampering efforts to curb online piracy.
"While illegal downloading of our members’ creative works remains the best known method of Internet theft, illegal Internet streaming has actually become the preferred viewing and listening experience," the groups write in their submission to the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, who is currently seeking public consultation on a new Intellectual Property Enforcement plan.
"Unfortunately, the law has not kept pace with these new consumer habits. While illegal downloading and distribution is a felony, the illegal, willful, and commercial streaming of films, TV programs, and music remains only a misdemeanor."
If the DGA and IATSE get their way, those who upload videos to YouTube and either deliberately or inadvertently include copyrighted content could find themselves committing a felony, and be subject to prosecution from the Department of Justice. While this is an extreme case that's unlikely to occur, with the DoJ most likely devoting their resources to going after bigger targets.
It is also worth noting that even with current laws, the DoJ have the power to seize domain names and seek other legal measures against the operators of streaming sites.