On Tuesday, October 23, 2019, the House of Representatives approved The Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act (the “CASE Act”) by 410-6 vote. The bill is intended to provide content creators with a less burdensome means to adjudicate copyright infringement claims than exists under the current law which mandates that all copyright infringement claims be filed in Federal Court. Due to the expense and complexity of a Federal copyright infringement lawsuit, small independent artists often have no viable option when their works are stolen by a much larger company with greater resources.

If approved by the Senate the bill would create a tribunal of “Copyright Claims Officers” who would resolve copyright infringement claims. Damages would be limited to $15,000 for each infringed work, with a $30,000 maximum in each action.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), who introduced the bill last year, has stated that “[t]he internet has provided many benefits to society. It is a wonderful thing, but it cannot be allowed to function as if it is the Wild West with absolutely no rules.”

Not everyone supports the bill. Internet advocacy groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union have cautioned that the CASE Act could expose those who simply share a meme on the internet to significant damages, or worse that it would undermine First Amendment rights. Although the ACLU agrees that the current system for resolving copyright claims needs to be revised, it has criticized the CASE Act because, according to the ACLU, it would create “a chilling effect with respect to speech online.”

The bill has been voted out of committee by the Senate Judiciary Committee and currently awaits a vote on the Senate floor.

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