In 2020, two copyright-related proposals became law despite the uproar against them. The first was the unconstitutional CASE Act. The second was a felony streaming proposal that had never been seen or debated in public. In fact, its inclusion was in the news before its text was ever made public. The only way to find it was when the 6,000-page year-end omnibus was published. We want to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
No copyright proposal—or copyright-adjacent one—has a place in “must-pass” legislation. Must-pass legislation is a bill that is vital to the running of the country and therefore must be passed and signed into law. They are usually the bills that fund the government for the upcoming year, in all its forms.
Because so many copyright-related bills involve proposals that would harm lawful free expression, they are not the kind of controversy-free proposals that belong in such legislation. Too many important rights hang in the balance, so bills that propose to remove expression for any reason must stand alone and be passed on their own merits, not borrow those of a funding bill. The public deserves to know exactly where their representatives stand on online expression and censorship.
Notwithstanding any secret bills like 2020’s felony streaming, there are three terrible bills already on the table:
- The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA)
- The Stopping Harmful Offers on Platforms by Screening Against Fakes in E-commerce Act (SHOP SAFE)
- The Strengthening Measures to Advance Rights Technologies Copyright Act
All three trade some form of protected speech for some corporate profit motive. All three also give a minority with billions of dollars the ability to control the speech of billions of users. That is not acceptable, no matter what the stated reasoning is. In each case, there are good arguments against the proposals and better options for carrying out the stated purpose of each bill.
These proposals, and any like them, should be kept out of the upcoming must-pass bills. They are too flawed and too important to let them evade a public debate and vote on their own merits. Tell Congress to stop copyright from creeping into must-pass laws.