The US House of Representatives today overwhelmingly voted to approve a new measure that would allow copyright claims to easily be used for censorship in the United States.
The law, that Reclaim The Net and other digital rights groups have been campaigning against, is supposed to give rights holders an easy way to hold copyright infringers accountable by opening a new small claims channel.
While the bill has not yet been fully approved by the Senate, the CASE Act (Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act) was approved by the House with 410 votes to 6. The bill was introduced by Democrat Rep. Hakeem Jeffries last year and was supposed to help artists, photographers, and content creators have a smoother way of receiving damages if their works are infringed.
Currently, all copyright claims must go through the federal courts and can be a more time-consuming process. This new bill outlines an easier way for rights-holders to be able to claim up to $15,000 for each infringed work.
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“The 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,” Jeffries said back in September. “We have seen that there are bad actors throughout society and the world who take advantage of the internet as a platform in a variety of ways. We cannot allow it.”
But, while on the surface the bill may seem like a good idea for those unfamiliar with internet culture and with actual creators on the internet, digital rights groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), American Civil Liberties Union, and Reclaim The Net have increasingly warned that a system like the one proposed by the CASE Act could cost internet users thousands at the hands of copyright trolls just for sharing a meme and would encroach on first amendment rights.
The current copyright laws such as the DMCA has caused a catastrophic level of censorship online and the CASE Act seems set to make things worse.
It currently awaits a vote on the Senate floor.