Advocacy Update: The CASE Act and Controlled Digital Lending

The RWA Board has taken formal positions on two issues that potentially impact authors and our genre.

The CASE Act

Position and action taken:
RWA joins with other organizations for writers and other creators to support the CASE Act (the copyright small claims bill), a nonpartisan bill introduced by Representative Jeffries. Avenues for authors to protect their rights should be affordable and accessible, and we believe the CASE Act is key to making this a reality. On April 30, 2019, RWA joined other organizations to send letters in support of the CASE Act to Congress. We will track its progress and will provide updates as necessary.   

About the CASE Act:
Federal courts have sole jurisdiction over copyright cases. The cost and time commitment involved in these cases can be prohibitive. The CASE Act would establish a Small Claims Tribunal within the Copyright Office. This would allow cases to be heard in an alternative manner, with the parties' agreement, for far less expense and with limited discovery. Both parties need to opt into the choice and the damages a plaintiff could receive would be limited to $15,000 per work up to $30,000 total.
Plaintiffs who might not otherwise have the resources to pursue a copyright case will now have a less expensive and less time intensive option. Not all copyright actions require full discovery and a legal battle to prove the case, and this alternative will recognize this. Further, this preserves the ability of a winning plaintiff to seek the federal court's assistance to collect any amount awarded in the small claims case if there is a payment issue.
RWA urges all members to stay informed about legislation like the CASE act. For more information, members can review the following resources about the Act:
Why US creators urgently need Congress to support the CASE Act
Efforts Continue to Establish Small Copyright Claims
The Authors Guild Supports a Copyright Small Claims Court

Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) and Open Library

Position and action taken:
RWA has joined with other organizations for writers and creators to oppose the practice that has been described as "Controlled Digital Lending" (CDL) as a potential infringement of copyright. A core tenet of our organization is that writers have the right to reasonable remuneration and preservation of authorial and intellectual property rights. As it currently stands, the CDL works directly against this principle. 

RWA will continue to monitor this issue and work with other organizations to oppose it as opportunities arise. 

About Controlled Digital Lending:
CDL is a created concept that allows a library to take a printed book and produce a scanned copy, and then distribute that scanned copy to other libraries in the US or Canada. This distribution practice means publishers and authors are not paid for the multiple digital copies that are made. The copying is done without their approval. CDL was developed by the Internet Archive, using Open Library (the website This is different from the library buying a print book for lending. This requires the copying of a book and lending that unauthorized copy without any payment to the author.
More information: The following is a list of resources members can review on the issue:
National Writers Union FAQ on Controlled Digital Lending (CDL)
Controlled Digital Lending Is Neither Controlled nor Legal
Controlled Digital Lending Concept Gains Ground
Authors Alliance Supports Controlled Digital Lending by Libraries

If you have questions on any of these issues, please contact