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Photo of a designer supporting the CASE Act

A Pandemic is a Good Time to Pass the CASE Act

We were thrilled with the progress made last year on the Copyright Alternative in Small-claims Enforcement Act (CASE Act). After being introduced in both the House and Senate, the bill quickly gained sponsors, and was passed out of committee in both houses. Heavy advocacy on the part of a wide coalition of graphic artists, photographers, writers, and other creatives resulted in the bill passing the House by an overwhelming majority of 410 to six. Unfortunately, the Senate bill stalled, largely because of the block placed by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden. With wide swaths of the nation at a standstill because of COVID, and with Congress tied up with stimulus bills, now might not seem to be the time to push to get our copyright bill passed. In fact, now is the RIGHT time.

Why is the CASE Act more important than ever? The answer is simple: because creators need a means to control and monetize their creative work. In decades past, the ability to generate a passive income stream by licensing existing images has seen illustrators and designers through lean times. However, since the advent of the Internet and the resulting rampant copyright infringement, visual artists have seen their licensing income dwindle and commissions for new work slow. This is borne out by data: yearly income reported by illustrators for our Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines has been stagnant from 2003 to 2015.

The COVID pandemic has created a financial crunch most of our members haven’t witnessed before: a nationwide (if not global) slowdown of work and business opportunities. In early April, we surveyed designers and illustrators on how they were faring. The news wasn’t good: over half experienced lost income from canceled or postponed work, and 45% were tapping into their savings to make ends meet. What was already a tight financial forecast for many designers and illustrators became dire.

By establishing a copyright small claims tribunal, the CASE Act would give creators an affordable avenue to pursue copyright infringers. That would give copyright infringers a powerful incentive to stop stealing the work illustrators and designers or, if they’re caught, to negotiate a licensing fee. Less copyright infringement also means creators’ works won’t lose licensing value. That’s income graphic artists could use to tide themselves over during lean times.

Time is running out to get The CASE Act passed. If your Senators are on the list below, contact them and ask them to co-sponsor S. 1273, the CASE Act. We’ve linked their contact pages, so you can send them an email directly. We’ve even supplied a sample message you can crib from. (If your Senators don’t appear in the list below, that means they’ve already co-sponsored The CASE Act.)

Sample Message

Dear [Insert Senator’s Name],

I’m writing you today to ask you to please co-sponsor S. 1273, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act (, The CASE Act) The CASE Act would establish a small copyright claims tribunal that would be an affordable, practical, and voluntary option to the federal courts.

I am a graphic artist and small business owner who relies on the protection copyright affords my work. People can easily take and use my artwork and there is little I can do to stop it. The federal court system is too expensive and time consuming to pursue infringers. Because the award I could get in federal court is smaller than the legal costs, most lawyers won’t take small copyright claims cases. Copyright infringement means I lose licensing income and income on new commissions.

Because of the COVID crisis, I’ve lost projects and income this year. It’s more important than ever that I’m able to license my work, and deter copyright infringers from stealing it. The Case Act would make that possible.

Thank you,

[Insert your name and address]