Ready to Pay $30,000 for Sharing a Photo Online? The House of Representatives Thinks You Are.

By Ernesto Falcon

Tomorrow the House of Representatives has scheduled to vote on what appears to be an unconstitutional copyright bill that carries with it life altering penalties. The bill would slap $30,000 fines on Internet users who share a copyrighted work they don’t own online.

Take Action — Now is the time to tell your Representative to vote NO

Supporters of the bill insist there’s no problem, because $30,000 isn’t that much money. They even laughed about it. We know the reality: when nearly half of this country would struggle to afford an emergency $400 expense, the penalties in this bill are deadly serious. What’s worse, they’ll be imposed not by an experienced judge, but instead by a committee of unaccountable bureaucrats.

What the CASE Act Does and Why it is a Disaster for Internet Users

The CASE Act creates a new tribunal separate from the federal judiciary (this is part of the constitutional problem) and places it within the Copyright Office. This agency has a sad history of industry capture, and often takes its cues from major content companies as opposed to average Americans. The new tribunals will receive complaints from rightsholders (anyone that has taken a photo, video, or written something) and will issue a “notice” to the party being sued.

We don’t actually know what this notice will look like. It could be an email, a text message, a phone call with voice mail, or a letter in the mail. Once the notice goes out, the targeted user has to respond within a tight deadline. Fail to respond in time means you’ll automatically lose, and are on the hook for $30,000. That’s why EFF is concerned that this law will easily be abused by copyright trolls. The trolls will cast a wide net, in hopes of catching Internet users unaware. Corporations with lawyers will be able to avoid all this, because they’ll have paid employees in charge of opting out of the CASE Act. But regular Americans with kids, jobs, and other real-life obligations could easily miss those notices, and lose out.

The CASE Act Radically Changes Copyright Law

One of the most disastrous changes to copyright law the bill creates is granting huge statutory damages to copyright owners who haven’t even registered their works. Under current law, if you copy a work that isn’t registered – meaning, the vast majority of things that are shared by users every single day—you’re only on the hook for the copyright owner’s actual economic loss. This is called “actual damages,” and very often, it’s $0. Under CASE, however, every copyrighted work will automatically eligible for $30,000 in damages – whether or not the owner has bothered to register it.

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Under current law, when I take a photo of my kids and someone shares it without my permission, the most I can sue them is nearly always $0. The CASE Act is a radical departure from this sensible rule. If it passes, sharing most of what you see online—photos, videos, writings, and other works—means risking crippling liability.

If this is upsets you and you want Congress to leave Internet users alone, then you have to contact your Representative and two Senators today, and tell them to vote NO on the CASE Act.

Take Action — Now is the time to tell your Representative to vote NO


Ernesto Falcon is Senior Legislative Counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation with a primary focus on intellectual property, open Internet issues, broadband access, and competition policy.

This article was sourced from EFF.org

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