US Congress has finally passed a new spending bill with COVID-19 relief measures, which on the one hand is good news for many Americans. As often happens with crucial legislation, however, lawmakers tacked on some extra legislation, including a controversial copyright bill called the CASE Act. They make illegal streaming for profit a felony and could see individual internet users being fined up to $30,000 simply for sharing memes, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and other consumer rights groups.


The much broader CASE Act, meanwhile, could clearly have a chilling effect on free speech. It creates a new small claims system that allows individual artists and designers to challenge copyright infringement without launching a federal case. “It’s a solution that is long overdue for individual creators and small copyright holders, for whom copyright has too often been a right without a remedy,” according to the Graphic Artists Guild.

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From Billboard

Cases would be decided by a three-judge panel of experts in a forum where damages would be capped at $15,000 per claim and $30,000 total. Providing an avenue for copyright infringement disputes to be heard outside of expensive federal copyright litigation creates an affordable process for independent creators to enforce their rights without having to hire attorneys or pay hefty court fees.


However, not everyone applauded the act’s swift passage. The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s associate director of policy and activism Katharine Trendacosta called the legislation unconstitutional by putting a court in the Library of Congress, which is part of the legislative branch. In addition, Trendacosta said the act will actually materially harm creators by removing safeguards that are in place to protect free expression and allow infringers to opt out of the courts process.

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See Also: Congress Passes CASE Act of 2020 and Law Regarding Unauthorized Streaming Services (via U.S. Copyright Office)


Association of American Publishers: Publishers Applaud Felony Streaming Amendment

Congress Only Has $600 for COVID Relief But They Managed to Cram In Controversial Changes to Copyright that Threaten Internet Users with Huge Fines (via Fight For The Future)

Copyright Alliance Commends Congress for Passing the CASE Act and the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act as Part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021

Motion Picture Association Statement on Coronavirus Relief and Government Funding Passage in Congress (via MPAA)

Music Community Statement on Omnibus COVID-19 Relief Bill (via RIAA)

Public Knowledge Condemns Passage of CASE Act in Funding Bill

This Disastrous Copyright Proposal Goes Straight to Our Naughty List (via EFF)