Thursday, July 18, 2019

CASE Act passes Senate Judiciary Committee with little discussion, raising questions of a trolling risk (maybe as soon as 2021)

The Senate Judiciary Committee today passed the CASE (Copyright Enforcement in Small-Claims Enforcement) Act out of committee.  It would presumably create a small claims court within the Copyright Office, with statutory limits on damages.  The basic problem is that it is much cheaper for a plaintiff to file a claim, and a defendant would be stuck with the responsibility of asking for an expensive jury trial, so the system could invite copyright trolls, unless there were more safeguards.

Marc Schneider of Billboard has a summary story

 Generally, artists’ groups have favored the legislation, but there has been criticism of Judiciary Committee’s blindness to the risk of trolling.

Katherine Trendacosta reports on the passage of the bill out of committee today with the trolling warnings, on Electronic Frontier Foundation, here

The bill would remind me of the history of a particular copyright troll, Righthaven, about a dozen years ago, which sued bloggers for excerpting stories and sometimes images from small town newspapers. I last discussed Righthave here Feb. 28, 2013. 
The bill was introduced by Senator John Kennedy of Mississippi as S 1273 (govtrack

The identical bill was introduced in the House as HR 2426.    Thomas gives no indication on when the House will hear it.

The bill would apparently allow a 120 comment period after passage, and then the Copyright Office would have one calendar year to set up operations. It would sound likely that such a mechanism could go into effect by early 2021.

It seems purely speculative at this point as to how the Copyright Office would handle frivolous or minor claims (about blog images, etc) or whether it would have mechanisms to discourage intentional trolling.  But by way of comparison, the Patent office does not have a good handle on preventing patent trolls.

Here is the video for today’s hearing, at 33:11.  There was no mention of the trolling risk. 

It would be valuable to know if a copyright troll problem pops up in the EU given the passage of its Copyright Directive and controversial Article 17.  

I have also covered this issue on a Wordpress blog here

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