“When a bill has overwhelming bipartisan support, the public is right to demand that Senator Wyden explain, in very clear terms, why he alone believes he knows better.”
Under Rule VII of the Rules of the Senate, bills can only move forward by unanimous consent. Consequently, a single senator may place a “hold” on a bill to keep it from passing. In principle, the rule exists to ensure that any senator may suspend the legislative process in order to review and research a proposal, particularly in cases where his or her state has a keen interest. In practice, of course, senate holds are wielded like one-man filibusters that often mask ulterior motives. Holds are meant to be contemplative pause buttons, not kill switches.
Since last September, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has maintained a hold on the small-claim copyright provision known as the CASE Act. This bill would create a voluntary, small-claim tribunal conducted by a newly created Copyright Claims Board (CCB) at the U.S. Copyright Office. Its principles have been in development for more than a decade, and it was designed to offer independent creators a remedy for small-claim infringements without enduring the cost and burden of federal lawsuits. The need for a small-claim provision has grown along with the steady rise in infringements, due primarily to the ease of “grabbing” material from the internet.