The CASE Act is a bipartisan copyright dispute resolution bill that is inches away from becoming the law of the land. Unfortunately, though, it has stalled in the Senate due to just one Senator. The bill calls for a “small claims” process staffed by U.S. Copyright Office attorneys for a limited category of infringement claims by creators, as well as an opportunity for a quick and inexpensive resolution by users of its various defenses to copyright infringement, such as fair use. The bill is an alternative approach to the one-size-fits-few federal copyright litigation that is far too expensive and complicated for working creators to utilize.
The CASE Act has been analyzed and debated for over 10 years (see backgrounder), and has already passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 410-6. The Senate version (S. 1273) was reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously and is co-authored by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and John Kennedy (R-LA), leaders from both sides of the aisle, who remain committed to the importance and value of this legislation.
You might expect that a bill that that enjoys so much support would have sailed through the Senate by unanimous consent. However, instead, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) placed a hold on the bill almost as soon as it was introduced. This action comes as no surprise to many members of the creative community as Senator Wyden puts a hold on every copyright bill that’s introduced.
Despite this being the case, Senator Wyden’s alleged support for progressive causes has continued to appeal to many creators across his state. This time, however, Oregon creators have realized that Senator Wyden is threatening their very livelihoods by blocking the CASE Act from moving forward in the Senate. He does everything he can to slow down, obfuscate, detract and pick apart any—and I mean any—artist rights legislation that comes to the U.S. Senate, particularly if it’s copyright legislation.
Prior to the CASE Act, Senator Wyden was able to get away with his anti-copyright adventurism by remaining in the shadows. But this legislation was a bridge too far for creators who have come out in vast numbers to protest his actions by mounting billboard advertising campaigns in his state, along with creators across the country conducting social media and letter writing campaigns. Yet throughout all of the attempts to help Senator Wyden understand the urgency of the bill, he has inexplicably maintained his hold on it while moving the goal posts repeatedly since fall of 2019.
When someone engages in the sort of negotiation shape-shifting that Senator Wyden has engaged in, the objections are so inconsistent that they do not seem genuine. So, it should be no surprise that creators are increasingly questioning his motives.
Why is he doing this? Why would a Senator from Oregon always favor Big Tech over his own constituents? Senator Wyden has a long history of protecting tech companies. And his connection to them is, no doubt, the Oregon data centers operated by companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon and Intel. These data lords are attracted by Oregon’s abundance of taxpayer-financed green energy from the Columbia River watershed. Indeed, Google recently announced plans for carbon free data centers. These data centers illustrate a prime example of the push-pull of Senator Wyden’s politics: While creators may find achieving green data attractive, they don’t intend to hand their life’s work to copyright free-riders to accomplish that goal, nor should they.
Companies like Google want to stop the copyright small claims legislation for a very simple reason—the stick of federal copyright litigation favors companies with trillion-dollar market caps. And Senators Durbin and Kennedy, along with the Senate bill’s numerous cosponsors, want such shenanigans to stop. If Senator Wyden won’t remove his hold out of respect for his constituents, he should do so out of respect for his colleagues in both bodies and on both sides of the aisle who are looking to protect the livelihoods of creators who urgently need their assistance through the enactment of the CASE Act.
Castle is an Austin, Texas attorney.
For more information about the CASE Act visit here.
Photo credits: headshot: Brenda Ladd Photography, billboard: Tim Trautman