"The CASE Act's flaws threaten free speech and Congress must fix them"

How nice to have an opportunity to relay news of library interest unrelated to publishers’ license terms!

In an opinion piece in The Hill, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel Kate Ruane argues for changes in a proposed piece of legislation:

Congress is currently considering legislation that would allow copyright holders to bring smaller cases defending their works from copyright infringers without some of the prohibitive costs of going to federal court. It’s a smart idea that many in the creative community have made clear is long overdue. At the ACLU, we agree. However, the specific legislation Congress has drawn up to achieve this – the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act (CASE Act) -- has significant design flaws that undermine free speech online and our due process rights. We’re urging lawmakers to make some changes

Ruane explains that the law would create a board with too much power:

The current proposal creates a new government body, the Copyright Claims Board (CCB) . . . to resolve certain copyright claims and counterclaims. As currently constructed, CCB would have the last and final word for nearly all cases and neither the copyright holder nor the alleged infringer could appeal the board’s decision in court, except in very limited circumstances. . . . Individuals fairly using copyrighted work, or those using it unknowingly — like kids posting videos of themselves on YouTube dancing to the latest Cardi B song — could be forced to pay up to $30,000 for those mistakes.

Ruane documents how the DCMA has in many cases been used improperly to censor speech. “In the case of the DMCA, alleged misuse means censorship. But the legislation currently under consideration increases the stakes. Speech alleged to be infringing wouldn’t just be censored — it could result in a $30,000 penalty. That’s enough to bankrupt the average American household.”

RF cheers on the ACLU’s efforts to change in the legislation. Libraries wouldn’t likely be affected often, though it is not impossible that some social media efforts might inadvertently be. But it is a fundamental library value to allow for as much speech as possible that does not infringe. Libraries should support this ACLU effort. Thank you, Ms. Ruane!