Rogue site and streaming bills top priorities for Copyright Office

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 The Protect IP Act is the most prominent rouge website legislation pending in Congress, although Pallante did not mention it by name. The measure would give the Justice Department new powers to go after websites "devoted to infringing activities," including forcing third-parties such as search engines, ad networks and payment processors to cut off services to the sites.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the measure in May, but Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has placed a hold on it, arguing it threatens free speech and innovation.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is a strong supporter of the Protect IP Act, praised the Copyright Office's report.

"Rogue sites, indeed, severely undermine the integrity of the copyright and e-commercial systems and necessitate the urgent attention of Congress to enact legislation that cuts off these online menaces from the U.S. marketplace," wrote Steve Tepp, the Chamber's chief intellectual property counsel. "We are encouraged by the Administration’s and Congress’ renewed focus on equipping enforcement agencies with sufficient tools to implement existing intellectual property laws."

The Copyright Office also identified legislation to punish illegal streaming as a "high-priority issue." A bill, sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), would make it a federal crime to stream unlicensed content for profit. Pallante notes that Congress updated copyright laws in 1997 and 2004 to address online infringement, but those updates focused on people who distributed "copies" of content and not people who streamed it. 

"Since that time, streaming (which primarily implicates the exclusive right of public performance) has become a major form of dissemination for copyrighted work and illegal streaming has become a more serious threat to copyright owners and legitimate U.S. businesses," Pallante wrote.

In addition to the legislative priorities, the report identified technological upgrades to improve the office's service. The Copyright Office will overhaul its website next year to help users more easily find information. The site will feature multimedia resources and a streamlined registration process, according to the report.

The office is also in the midst of a multiyear effort to digitize millions of historical records dating back to 1870. The office is considering "crowdsourcing" the project, allowing members of the public to help identify the handwritten documents.

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