CASE Act’s Copyright Enforcement Draws Mixed Response

In July, a bipartisan group from the Senate Judiciary Committee reintroduced the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act, by which the U.S. Copyright Office will create a three-person Copyright Claims Board that will supervise a ‘small claims-style’ system for damages. The Copyright Alliance and the Graphic Artists Guild approved the move, which allows a copyright owner whose content was used without permission to claim for damages up to $15,000 for each work and $30,000 in total. However, some groups are opposing the Act and question the cost of such an approach.

Forbes reports that only digital content registered with the Copyright Office is eligible to receive those amounts; if content is not registered, owners can sue for half those amounts. Although the CASE Act has some supporters, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Public Knowledge, and the Authors Alliance oppose it. According to critics, the Act “could also end up burdening individuals and small outfits, while potentially giving big companies and patent trolls a leg up.”

“We’ve seen some version of the CASE Act pop up for years now, and the problems with the bill have never been addressed satisfactorily,” said EFF manager of policy and activism Katharine Trendacosta. “This is still a bill that puts people in danger of huge, unappealable money judgments from a quasi-judicial system — not an actual court — for the kind of Internet behavior that most people engage in without thinking.”

The bill states that, “the Copyright Claims Board may not make any finding that, or consider whether, the infringement was committed willfully in making an award of statutory damages” but instead would only consider “whether the infringer has agreed to cease or mitigate the infringing activity.”

EFF senior legislative counsel Ernesto Falcon stated that CASE would “present censorship risks, given that the current legal system for content ‘takedown’ notices, as defined by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), is already abused.”

“[An] Internet platform doesn’t have to honor the counter-notice by putting the posted material back online within 14 days,” he said. “Already, some of the worst abuses of the DMCA occur with time-sensitive material … that material [can be censored] for up to two weeks during a newsworthy event, for example. The CASE Act would allow unscrupulous filers to extend that period by months, for a small filing fee.”

Related:
Who Wrote ‘Stairway to Heaven’? Music Industry Braces For Copyright Suits, The Wall Street Journal, 8/4/19