The Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act (CASE Act) provides a practical solution to a spectrum of injustice for creators, publishers and copyright administrators alike. Why is it important to us? Mayimba Music is a boutique independent music publisher, formed by musicians, with an emphasis on advocacy for creators. We also administer for third-party independents, ranging from individual singer/songwriters to larger indie publishing companies with tens of thousands of compositions.
We focus on administering rights on the sound recording side, where, in our rapidly morphing world of digital distribution, infringements are overwhelming and multifaceted – they range from individuals uploading tracks that aren’t their own, to the use of samples of sound recordings without permission of the rights holder. Generally, our only recourse is takedown, and we are rarely paid on the earnings generated by these violations. Even in our indie world, such violations can add up to tens of thousands of dollars.
It is to be noted, underlying each sound recording is a musical composition that, when illegitimately released, is NEVER licensed. As if piracy of sound recordings were not enough, digital distributors geared toward indies, such as TuneCore, CDBaby, DistroKid and others, offer “one-click’ opt-in publishing administration services. Suddenly, there is an additional level of abuse on the publishing side. It is no simple matter to have these firms withdraw their claims even on works that are clearly copyrighted.
Mayimba has experienced firsthand the hardship of litigating copyright infringement in federal court. Going through pretrial depositions and other court protocols, followed by the trial on liability and damages, is not easy or inexpensive. Years go by as whopping legal fees loom monthly. Even for the prevailing party, the chances for recoupment of legal fees, and the chance that dollars will be left over to eventually reach a creator’s pocket, are remote. Many copyright cases end up being litigated purely on principle and, except in the rare instance that a case sets some industry-altering precedent, it is simply not worth it.
In federal court (which currently has jurisdiction over copyright infringement matters), creators play the lottery. Will the judge assigned to our case truly have a grasp on copyright law? Will they be in tune with grey areas of copyright created by the ever-changing panorama of new technology? Will they understand industry standards and be musically inclined, or even understand what “words” and “music” actually mean to a music publisher? The answer: it is highly unlikely that a federal judge would be up to speed on these industry specific issues.
For the U.S. Copyright Office, however, this is its area of expertise. So, the idea that under the CASE Act, arbitrators would be from an Office board, where individuals are not only steeped in Copyright Law, but are also in sync with industry standards and technological innovation, is truly exciting. Absent the protocol and motion practice of federal court, simple issues may be distilled and placed before specialized arbitrators and quickly adjudicated. Under the CASE Act, this right would be available, without bankrupting independents, and where working creators would have the opportunity to protect their rights.
So, what can you do to help? Email, tweet and call your Senators and Senator Wyden simply by clicking here, and urge them to support the CASE Act!
Why is Senator Ron Wyden the sole obstacle to a widely supported bill? Senator Wyden has noted 5 points in a form letter response to creators reaching out to him. And Wyden’s issues and misinformation are clearly addressed here.
The CASE Act? Again, it is a no-brainer.