Have you ever shared a funny meme or graphic online, despite the fact that you did not create it? Most of us have. But the House of Representatives, in all of its wisdom, passed a bill Tuesday by an overwhelming majority that could punish internet users for doing just that.
“The Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act, or the CASE Act for short, was approved by 410-6 vote,” according to The Verge. “Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) introduced the measure last year with the goal of giving graphic artists, photographers, and other content creators a more efficient pathway toward receiving damages if their works are infringed.”
Today, copyright lawsuits are required to be filed in federal courts, which is much more expensive and time consuming than small claims court.
On its face, the bill seems reasonable, and perhaps artists should be able to sue in order to protect themselves from having their original content shared without their permission. But multiple groups, including the notoriously leftist American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which to its credit has worked to protect freedom of expression and even defended Milo Yiannopoulos in a lawsuit against the city of Washington, D.C. for denying him advertising space on the metro, have spoken out against the passage of Jeffries’ bill.
“Any system to enable easier enforcement of copyrights runs the risk of creating a chilling effect with respect to speech online,” the ACLU reportedly said in a statement. “Many of these cases will be legitimate. However, some will not, and others, even if brought in good faith, may be defensible as fair use or for some other permissible reason.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization founded with the express goal of protecting internet freedom, condemned the bill on it website, and explained its dangers.
“The CASE Act creates a new body in the Copyright Office which will receive copyright complaints, notify the person being sued, and then decide if money is owed and how much,” the organization said. “This new Copyright Claims Board will be able to fine people up to $30,000 per proceeding. Worse, if you get one of these notices (maybe an email, maybe a letter—the law actually does not specify) and accidentally ignore it, you’re on the hook for the money with a very limited ability to appeal. $30,000 could bankrupt or otherwise ruin the lives of many Americans.“
The bill, which was passed through the voting process in the Senate Judiciary Committee and awaits a vote on the Senate floor, was defended by Jeffries.
“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 reportedly told The Verge 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.”
That statement is a perfect metaphor for leftism, which prefers to have Americans hand over at least some of their freedom on every issue to the federal government, so that it can babysit the citizenry.