Copyright lawyers could soon be able to seek up to $30,000 in damages from individuals for even the simplest and most unintentional of copyright violations. Earlier this week, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act (CASE Act) was passed by the House of Representatives with a 410-6 vote with 16 abstaining votes. The Case Act is now going to be voted on by the US Senate, where a similar outcome might come about if the American people do not rally against this heinous copyright law.
As opposed to doing an “Upload censorship for copyright” approach like the European Union, the United States is creating a new entity in the government’s Copyright Office called the Copyrights Claims Board which would be responsible for enforcement. This new arm of the Copyright Office will receive copyright complaints, notify the person being sued, and then act as the court to decide if and how much money is owed. The Copyright Claims Board will have the power to issue fines to individuals of amounts up to $30,000.
What this means is that this misinformed law could end up having copyright enforcement outside of the protections of normal court proceedings. Basically, a lot of regular internet users could suddenly be forced to pay up to a $30,000 fine for simply sharing a photo or meme online. While memes should be protected under the Fair Use clause in American Copyright law, it wouldn’t really be up to the meme maker or the meme sharer to make that decision. It’d be up to this new Copyright Claims Board.
The CASE Act is a new copyright law that nobody should support
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has been very vocal and instrumental in sounding the alarm about this bill’s problems since its inception – and they aren’t the only ones. Matt Schruers of the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), also explained the dangers of the CASE Act in a statement:
“[…] small claims process would expose internet users to high penalties without effective due process, enabling trolls or other abusive litigants to circumvent the existing safeguards provided by the federal judicial system.”
On the other side of the fight, the Copyright Alliance’s CEO Keith Kupferschmid, told Gizmodo via phone:
“The idea that it would be used for copyright trolling is absolutely absurd and a bald-faced lie. We’ve heard these sky-is-falling arguments before when the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was passed.It included a provision that a creator can send a notice to someone who posts something asking them to take it down, but the supposed chilling effect never came to fruition.”
Despite the Copyright Alliance’s claims to the contrary, there are many internet users that would agree that the DMCA did in fact enable some copyright trolling. The existence of DMCA bots that issue DMCA takedown notices should be a strong indication that any and all paths can and will be used for copyright trolling. Allowing that amount of damage to reach the American people would be a grave misstep. Call your Senator to urge them not to vote for the CASE Act when it comes up for vote this session.