IP Law Daily House passes bill to establish copyright small claims board
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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

House passes bill to establish copyright small claims board

By Cheryl Beise, J.D.

The CASE Act would create a small claims board in the U.S. Copyright Office for expedited resolution of copyright disputes.

The U.S. House of Representatives on October 22 voted 410-6 to pass the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019 (H.R. 2426), known as the CASE Act. The bipartisan legislation would amend Title 17 to create a Copyright Claims Board at the Copyright Office to make it easier and less expensive for independent creators, such as photographers, songwriters, and graphic artists, to enforce their copyrights.

The CASE Act is one step closer to becoming law. H.R. 2426 was introduced on May 1, 2019, by Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Doug Collins (R-Ga). The bill was marked up by the House Judiciary Committee in September. A companion bill (S. 1273) was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 18. The next step is for the full Senate to vote on the measure.

The CASE Act would create the Copyright Claims Board (CCB) at the Copyright Office. The CCB would not replace a district court as a forum for pursuing copyright claims, but would provide an optional, alternative forum for rightsholders. A panel of three Copyright Claims Officers—subject matter experts appointed by the Librarian of Congress—would be designated to adjudicate and settle copyright claims of up to $15,000 in statutory damages per work infringed and would cap damages at $30,000 per case. Proceedings could take place over the phone and online, without an attorney. The measure does not require proof that a work be registered to qualify for small claims adjudication.

"For far too long, it has been virtually impossible for small creators to vindicate their right to a just measure of damages from infringers who have used their work without permission," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) in a floor statement in support of the CASE Act. "Today, we have an opportunity to take an important step in helping independent photographers, filmmakers, graphic designers, and other creators to protect their work."

"The establishment of the Copyright Claims Board is critical for the creative middle class who deserve to benefit from the fruits of their labor," Representative Jeffries said, in a joint statement with Representative Collins. "The CASE Act will enable creators to enforce copyright protected content in a fair, timely and affordable manner. This legislation is a strong step in the right direction," said Jeffries.

"Our founding fathers wanted to protect the intellectual property of all Americans, but, today, our copyright system fails small creators. The passage of the CASE Act addresses this failure because the bill would create an easier and more affordable way for small creators to address the theft of their work," said Rep. Collins.

The CASE Act has garnered the support of several organizations, including the American Bar Association, American Association of Independent Music, American Conservative Union, AFL-CIO, American Intellectual Property Law Association, Copyright Alliance, NAACP, News Media Alliance and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, according to Rep. Collins.

However, other groups caution that the CASE Act is one-sided and lacks constitutional protections for average Internet users accused of copyright infringement. Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) warns that the bill would allow sophisticated bad actors to get away with trolling, while sophisticated infringers will be able "to navigate whatever opt-out system the Copyright Office creates."

MainStory: TopStory Copyright TechnologyInternet

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