On September 10, the House Judiciary Committee reported the Manager’s Amendment to the Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act (H.R. 2426) favorably out of the Committee by a voice vote. In a press release issued following the markup, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) called the establishment of a Copyright Claims Board “critical for the creative middle class.” He stated that the CASE Act “will enable creators to enforce copyright protected content in a fair, timely and affordable manner,” and called the legislation a “strong step in the right direction.” Ranking Member Doug Collins (R-GA) said that the CASE Act is “common sense legislation” that would provide small creators with affordable legal resources to combat copyright theft and lauded the leadership of Rep. Jeffries in drafting this bill and achieving bipartisan support for it. The companion bill in the upper chamber — S. 1273 — was reported favorably out of the Senate Judiciary Committee by a voice vote on July 18, 2019. The Copyright Alliance issued a statement, which can be found here. More information is available here.
The bill was co-sponsored in the Senate by Sens. John Kennedy (R-LA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI). Original House co-sponsors include: HJC Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and HJC IP Subcommittee Chairman Hank Johnson (D-GA), as well as Martha Roby (R-AL), Judy Chu (D-CA), Ben Cline (R-VA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).
The legislation creates a voluntary small claims board within the Copyright Office that will provide copyright owners with an alternative to the expensive process of bringing copyright claims, including infringement and misrepresentation under 512(f), in federal court. This new board, called the Copyright Claims Board (CCB), would allow recovery in each case of up to $30,000 in damages total, with a cap of $15,000 in statutory damages per work infringed.
Even with such great progress, we still need your help! If you haven’t contacted your Representatives and Senators, please do so today and urge them to cosponsor the CASE Act. And if you’ve already contacted them, please do so again! We need everyone’s support to ensure that this critical legislation is enacted into law. It’s quick and easy to do. Just click on the link below to message your elected officials.
Then, follow the links below to stay informed about the CASE Act, including statements and other information regarding H.R. 2426 and S. 1273.
“The coordinated lobbying efforts of the Songwriters Guild of America, the Society of Composers & Lyricists, Music Creators North America, the Screen Composers Guild of Canada, the Authors Guild, and all of our colleagues in the US Copyright Alliance paid big dividends TONIGHT with the passage by the US House Judiciary Committee of the CASE Act. If enacted, the legislation (recently passed unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee) will establish a small claims system for copyright creators that will finally allow them to effectively protect and enforce their rights under the US Constitution and the Copyright Act. SGA and President Rick Carnes have been working on this initiative for well over a decade. The bills will now go to the full House and Senate for their consideration. Stay tuned!” – Songwriters Guild of America
“The CASE Act is a common-sense legislation that helps small publishers and other businesses as well as individual creators by providing an alternative, low-cost venue for protecting their intellectual property. Strong and enforceable copyright protections are a defining characteristic of the American legal system, but the prohibitive costs of federal litigation make enforcing these rights difficult for many small copyright owners. The Alliance has for long supported the CASE Act, and we applaud Representatives Jeffries and Collins for reintroducing it in this Congress. We hope that Congress takes action and passes this important piece of legislation shortly.” – News Media Alliance
The Digital Media Licensing Associations (DMLA) supports the CASE Act that would create an affordable, efficient alternative to expensive and drawn out federal litigation to resolve ordinary copyright disputes. Copyright law and the means to effectively enforce rights under copyright is the bedrock of the media licensing industry. DMLA members represent the works of thousands of photographers, illustrators and visual artists for potential licensing. The ease in which images can be reproduced freely online undermines the licensing economy and the livelihood of the artists of works DMLA members represent. DMLA has been working for the past decade with the Copyright Office, Congress, and a coalition of visual artists associations in support of a creation of a voluntary copyright tribunal that will encourage the resolution of these kinds of infringement claims, where both sides can afford to seek a resolution without expensive legal fees.
Why Legislation to Create a Small Claims Tribunal is Necessary: Federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over copyright. But federal litigation is prohibitively expensive and the costs of enforcing copyright claims for failure to license can far exceed any damage award under the Copyright Act. As a result, these infringements regularly go unchallenged, leading many creators to feel disenfranchised by the copyright system. In effect, these creators have rights but no remedies.
Key Components of the Small Claims Legislation: The CASE Act was largely based on the legislative recommendations made by the U.S. Copyright Office in its 2013 study. The bill would create a three-“judge” tribunal within the Copyright Office to handle small copyright claims and cap damages, allowing for statutory damages of up to $15,000 per work and no more than $30,000 in total damages. One of the most prominent and important features of this legislation is that the process would be 100% optional. If a party does not want to bring or defend a copyright case before the tribunal, it can simply opt out. The CASE Act would create a much less formal, streamlined process than exists in federal court. For example, unlike federal court, attorneys and in-person appearances would not be necessary and discovery would be extremely limited.
The CASE Act is Fair and Balanced. The tribunal created by the CASE Act could hear claims by copyright owners and users, as well as all defenses and counterclaims allowed in federal court. The bill discourages bad faith claims, counterclaims and defenses by imposing fees on “bad actors” and barring repeat offenders from continuing to use the tribunal. It would also ensure fairness by stipulating that the three “judges” be appointed and removable by the Librarian of Congress; and requiring that two of the three have experience representing or presiding over a diversity of copyright interests, including those of both owners and users of copyrighted works. It would also require that the Officers follow judicial precedent when deciding a case. – DMLA