Memes are safe for now, as the “anti-meme” bill is blocked from Senate vote

Senators Ron Wyden and Rand Paul have saved the day.

It did really well in the US House of Representatives when it last week received overwhelming support – but the so-called “anti-meme law” has thankfully hit a snag in the Senate.

There, according to their aides, Senators Ron Wyden and Rand Paul have placed holds on the bill, known formally as the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act. This means they have prevented the motion from reaching a vote in the Senate, Reclaim The Net can confirm.

The CASE Act aims to create a small claims court within the Copyright Office, and declares to have the goal of providing a system that would help small copyright holders protect themselves by receiving damages more easily. The current system is said to favor big companies, considering that copyright infringement cases go through federal courts and are time and money-consuming.

But the critics, who include a host of digital rights groups and activists, say the law could easily be abused for censorship and by copyright trolls, who could potentially bankrupt internet users for nothing more than sharing a meme.

Now, Senator Wyden's objection to the legislation deals with precisely this problem, and the overall legality of the act: according to him, the bill would create “an extrajudicial, virtually unappealable tribunal that could impose statutory damages of $30,000 on an individual who posts a couple of memes on social media, even if the claimant sustained little or no economic harm.”

Furthermore, Wyden said that free expression and fair use could suffer too. And the senator also mentioned the danger of copyright trolls exploiting the new system to harass users.

And while the Copyright Alliance is pushing for the bill to pass, civil liberties groups who oppose it are warning that it is also easily unconstitutional, as the 7th Amendment guarantees a trial by jury for civil disputes over $20.

Meanwhile, according to his aides, Wyden is preparing an alternative bill that would address both the problems faced by small copyright holders, and the shortcomings in the proposed legislation that is currently blocked in the Senate.

Didi Rankovic

Didi Rankovic is an experienced online journalist, editor, and translator, with a career spanning over ten years writing for major a English-language website in Serbia, and previously working as translator for international organizations and peacekeepers in the Balkans. Rankovic is passionate about free and open source tech and is a head contributor for Reclaim The Net, focusing on lead stories. [email protected]