October 24, 2019
In a 410-6 vote, the House of Representatives approved the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act that will allow online content creators to more efficiently pursue infringers. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York) introduced the measure last year. If it becomes law, it will create a new small claims court with a tribunal of copyright claims officers who would work with both parties to resolve the issue. Potential damages would no more than $15,000 per claim or $30,000 in total.
The Verge reports that “the Senate Judiciary Committee has already voted the bill out of committee,” and it now awaits a vote in the Senate. In describing the CASE Act, Jeffries noted the Internet “cannot be allowed to function as if it is the Wild West with absolutely no rules.”
“We have seen that there are bad actors throughout society and the world who take advantage of the Internet as a platform in a variety of ways,” he added. More specifically, the Internet makes it easy to “copy and paste creative works,” which the CASE Act intends to address.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union, however, aren’t enthused over the CASE Act.
“Any system to enable easier enforcement of copyrights runs the risk of creating a chilling effect with respect to speech online,” wrote the ACLU, which encouraged legislators to vote against the act. “Many of these cases will be legitimate. However, some will not, and others, even if brought in good faith, may be defensible as fair use or for some other permissible reason.”
Advocates of the bill counter that, “the small-claims tribunal is only an option and not a requirement for those who are looking to settle a copyright suit.” “There is no gun that is being held to anyone’s head, because the small claims court like tribunal is voluntary in nature,” said Jeffries.
The ACLU and others that oppose the CASE Act agree that the copyright system needs to be fixed “but argue that previous changes like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) have been wrought with abuse,” including takedowns of “perfectly legal content.” Jeffries agreed, calling the DMCA system “inefficient, cumbersome,” and even “pointless” for content creators.