Online only, so far

US small claims procedure edges closer

THE US HOUSE of Representatives passed the CASE Act by 410-6 on 22 October. It now goes to the Senate.

The Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act would set up a Copyright Claims Board. If - and only if - both parties agreed, their cases would be heard far more cheaply than in full-fat Federal court. The Board could award damages of up to $15,000 per work or $30,000 per claim. A full-fat court can award up to $150,000 in statutory damages per work if the infringement is found to be "wilful".

The Act (that's be a Bill in UK parlance) currently has 17 co-sponsors in the Senate. The legislation passed the House Judiciary Committee by voice vote on 11 September.

That was despite the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sending a confusing letter to the House Judiciary Committee on 10 September. Technically, this was objecting to restrictions on the right to appeal decisions of the Board. The take-home message, though, was that the Act "may harm the freedom of speech" - advancing the narrative of the internet corporations that anything that restricts copying works without payment does that. And it turns out that at least one such corporation has given shedloads to the ACLU.

As Mickey H. Osterreicher, General Counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, wrote in response: "The bottom line is that anyone notified of a claim can simply and easily opt-out if they do not wish to participate in this copyright infringement process. It's one thing for the ACLU to advocate for free speech and quite another to promote a free-for-all (in the literal and figurative sense) when it comes to copyrighted works."

Posted 21 October 2019; updated

27 October 2019

  • The Trichordist blog has details of some extremely shady lobbying activities against CASE. Start here and follow the links...

01 November 2019

  • Senators Ron Wyden and Rand Paul on 24 October put a hold on the bill, and announced that they plan to introduce "an alternative approach". It's far from dead, as the Freelance understamds it.