The CASE Act is closer to becoming law after 410 members of the House of Representatives voted in support of what many are calling an assault against the common American. And as the bill moves on to the Senate, civil rights organizations worry that the act will have no trouble making it to President Donald Trump’s desk.
The Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act or CASE Act targets regular internet users who share a copyrighted work they don’t own online. This means that the simple act of sharing an image on Facebook or another social media outlet could put you on the hook for a $30,000 fine.
As highlighted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, slapping such a steep fine on a working family could have a crippling effect, especially when we consider that half of U.S. residents struggle to afford an emergency $400 expense.
Creating a separate tribunal within the Copyright Office, the CASE Act puts bureaucrats in charge of reviewing copyright complaints and issuing notices to the person who shared the image.
Because anyone who has taken a photo, a video, or written something online would be considered a rightsholder under the new law, virtually anybody could be sued for innocently sharing anything. As reported by TechDirt, this law would provide so-called “patent trolls” great opportunities for abuse, putting families and struggling Americans in a dire financial situation.
Copyright laws have long exposed innocent parties to crippling fines and even jail time for using their own property to reproduce protected material. With the CASE Act, this overreach of government power is simply expanded, putting a greater number of people at risk of being targeted. Unfortunately, many of those who now oppose Congress’s latest assault against regular Americans will assert that existing copyright laws are preferable, claiming that, at least under current rules, you must register your work to own the rights over it.
What many don’t realize is that the CASE Act, as well as all existing so-called intellectual property protections, are rules that actually rely on the violation of property rights for their enforcement.
As a matter of fact, when the government prevents someone from sharing an image, it is violating his rights over his own property, whether that’s his smartphone or computer.
Whether copyright proponents understand this or not, rules such as the CASE Act are actually an attack against private property by government agents claiming that there’s such a thing as intellectual property. But for something to be considered property, it must be scarce. In other words, its use must prevent another person from using it as well. That’s why a car is a piece of property, as the same vehicle cannot be used by two different people at the same time. An image online doesn’t have that essential quality.
While it’s important to highlight just how the CASE Act could hurt the regular Joe, it’s also essential for regulators to understand that all copyright law is essentially a violation of property rights, and that the only moral way to approach this problem is to bring intellectual property protections to an end.