In July, members of the federal Senate Judiciary Committee chose to move forward with a bill targeting copyright abuse with a more streamlined way to collect damages, but critics say that it could still allow big online players to push smaller ones around — and even into bankruptcy.
Known as the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (or CASE) Act, the bill was reintroduced in the House and Senate this spring by a roster of bipartisan lawmakers, with endorsements from such groups as the Copyright Alliance and the Graphic Artists’ Guild. Under the bill, the U.S. Copyright Office would establish a new ‘small claims-style’ system for seeking damages, overseen by a three-person Copyright Claims Board. Owners of digital content who see that content used without permission would be able to file a claim for damages up to $15,000 for each work infringed, and $30,000 in total, if they registered their content with the Copyright Office, or half those amounts if they did not.
“Easy $5,000 copyright infringement tickets won’t fix copyright law,” argues the EFF, in an article shared by long-time Slashdot reader SonicSpike:
The bill would supercharge a “copyright troll” industry dedicated to filing as many “small claims” on as many Internet users as possible in order to make money through the bill’s statutory damages provisions. Every single person who uses the Internet and regularly interacts with copyrighted works (that’s everyone) should contact their Senators to oppose this bill…
[I]f Congress passes this bill, the timely registration requirement will no longer be a requirement for no-proof statutory damages of up to $7,500 per work. In other words, nearly every photo, video, or bit of text on the Internet can suddenly carry a $7,500 price tag if uploaded, downloaded, or shared even if the actual harm from that copying is nil. For many Americans, where the median income is $57,652 per year, this $7,500 price tag for what has become regular Internet behavior would result in life-altering lawsuits from copyright trolls that will exploit this new law.