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Graphic Artists Guild

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infographic showing progress of the CASE Act

CASE Act Update: What’s Next for a Small Claims Tribunal

On December 27, the President signed into law the comprehensive omnibus bill passed by Congress, including the CASE Act. After 15+ years of advocacy efforts, five iterations of copyright small claims legislation being introduced into Congress, letters and calls and visits to Congressional staffers and Members, countless emails and articles, and an outpouring of support from our members, the CASE Act is finally law.

So what’s next? It will take approximately 12-18 months for the copyright small claims tribunal to be up and running. Much needs to be done before then, including devising the process in which applicants can submit claims and have their cases heard. We anticipate the stakeholders will be asked to provide feedback on how the process will work. We’ll weigh in with feedback on behalf of graphic artists. We’ll also produce educational materials on copyright small claims as we get nearer to the actual implementation of the tribunal.

During this period, we’re strongly advising artists to register their copyrights. Having a valid copyright registration, or at minimum a properly submitted registration application, is a prerequisite to using the tribunal. We’re also encouraging graphic artists to utilize the Group Registration of Unpublished Works (GRUW) option. This will permit you to register up to 10 works on one form for one fee before those works have been published. The works should be registered before they are distributed to a client, posted online onto websites that permit sharing, published in blogs, or posted to social media. The Copyright Office has published a video tutorial showing how to register works under the GRUW option.  Works that have already been published must be individually registered.

Overview of the CASE Act Copyright Small Claims Process

  1. The copyright small claims tribunal will be an alternative to federal court, where copyright infringement lawsuits can cost $300,000 or more. It will provide an affordable means for individual creators and copyright holders to bring their small copyright infringement cases.
  2. A copyright holder’s potential award could receive through the tribunal is limited to $30,000 and could be less. The small claims tribunal officers will consider a number of factors when assessing damages.
  3. Copyright holders must have registered their copyrights before submitting a claim to the small claims tribunal. Once their work has been registered, or a registration has been submitted, the applicant submits their claim to be evaluated by the small copyright claims officers. If the claim is considered valid, the case can then proceed.
  4. The small claims tribunal is voluntary. Copyright holders can elect to use the federal court system to bring an infringement case. Those receiving a notice to appear before the tribunal can opt-out. However, with awards limited in the tribunal, a copyright infringer has a powerful incentive to remain in the small claims process and not to tempt the person bringing the action to go to federal court.