If you're exhausted of politics (and at this point, who isn't) rest easy; this isn't a post on politics, or at least not politics as we've come to think of it in 2020. The issue at hand harkens back to a simpler time, or at least a time more familiar to those of us who chose to watch how the proverbial sausage was made at a time when there was a choice to look away and go about your life.
The process of rolling up pieces of legislation into large, omnibus spending bills is hardly a new one, and the proposition that said legislation be either deeply unpopular or deeply uninteresting is similarly as old as the institutions going about the practice. Is it convenient for legislators? Sure. Is it good? Probably not! As per usual, The Simpsons has spoken to the issue better and more succinctly than anyone else could hope to: poison pills or coattails can be dangerous when the larger legislation in question is "too big to fail," to borrow from a different crisis.
Which brings us to the current moment: Congress is staring at a crucial appropriations bill, one that is necessary to keep the government running, and per Techdirt House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has given her assent to allow the CASE Act to be included in the bill. If you're a proponent of the CASE Act, which reforms existing copyright law, the inclusion is a win; after all, who would vote against finding the government for the sake of copyright law, hardly an issue that animates voters? If you're not a fan of the CASE Act, that same rationale is reason for concern as the bill moves forward.
And plenty of people are not a fan of the CASE Act. The headline provision of the bill is the creation of what is in essence a small claims court within the Copyright Office, with the expressed intent to speed up the process of getting copyright holders quicker judgments in copyright cases. The issues with that process are manifold; creating a semi-judicial body within the executive branch is problematic, to say the least, as is creating a process that could be ripe for even greater exploitations than the extant system. Having a stated purpose of essentially getting copyright holders paid more quickly certainly send the message that there is a thumb on the scale.
All that said, the smart money would be on the bill passing into law, given that our broader attentions are focused on anything but copyright law, and largely are on the virus that is still killing thousands of Americans a day. And that's not the wrong approach; COVID-19 has and will have real, tangible impacts on our lives yet for weeks and months to come, and copyright is not something people are aware of as it touches upon our online existence. But it would nevertheless be unfortunate for flawed measures to pass into law simply because we're dealing with multiple crises. We can certainly hope pressure works against the bill, but you'll never go broke betting against the sensitivity of Congress to constituent complaints.