The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the CASE Act, a new bill that proposes to institute a small claims court for copyright disputes. Supporters see the legislation as the ideal tool for smaller creators to protect their works, but opponents
warn that it will increase the number of damages claims against regular Internet users. The new bill, which passed with a clear 410-6 vote, will now progress to the Senate.
The bill is widely supported by copyright-heavy industry
groups as well as many individual creators. However, as is often the case with new copyright legislation, there's also plenty of opposition from digital rights groups and Internet users who fear that the bill will do more harm than good.
Supporters of the CASE Act point out that the new bill is the missing piece in the present copyright enforcement toolbox. They believe that many creators are not taking action against copyright infringers at the moment, because filing
federal lawsuits is too expensive. The new small claims tribunal will fix that, they claim.
Opponents, for their part, fear that the new tribunal will trigger an avalanche of claims against ordinary Internet users, with potential
damages of up to $30,000 per case. While targeted people have the choice to opt-out, many simply have no clue what to do, they argue.
Thus far legislators have shown massive support for the new plan. Yesterday the bill was up for
a vote at the U.S. House of Representatives where it was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. With a 410-6 vote , the passage of the CASE Act went smoothly.
Public Knowledge and other groups, such as EFF and Re:Create ,
fear that the bill will lead to more copyright complaints against regular Internet users. Re:Create's Executive Director Joshua Lamel hopes that the Senate will properly address these concerns. Lamel notes:
CASE Act will expose ordinary Americans to tens of thousands of dollars in damages for things most of us do everyday. We are extremely disappointed that Congress passed the CASE Act as currently written, and we hope that the Senate will do its due
diligence to make much-needed amendments to this bill to protect American consumers and remove any constitutional concerns,
The US House of Representatives has just voted in favor of the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act (CASE Act) by 410-6 (with 16 members not voting), moving forward a bill that Congress has had
no hearings and no debates on so far this session. That means that there has been no public consideration of the
serious harm the bill could do to regular Internet users and their expression online.
The CASE Act creates a new body in the Copyright Office which will receive copyright complaints, notify the person being sued, and then decide
if money is owed and how much. This new Copyright Claims Board will be able to fine people up to $30,000 per proceeding. Worse, if you get one of these notices (maybe an email, maybe a letter--the law actually does not specify) and accidentally ignore
it, you're on the hook for the money with a very limited ability to appeal. $30,000 could bankrupt or
otherwise ruin the lives of many Americans.