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Copyright Small Claims: Advocate for Fair Fees

NOTE: The Copyright Office has extended the deadline for comments to November 12th.

The Copyright Office has been working to implement the CASE Act, the recently passed legislation which establishes a copyright small claims tribunal. The Office has been issuing Notices of Proposed Rulemakings (NPRM), outlining the rules and procedures guiding the Copyright Claims Board, and requesting feedback from stakeholders. However, their latest NPRM proposed a fee and process which we find troubling for individual creators. We’re asking creators to please respond to the Copyright Offices NPRM with a comment letter by the deadline of November 12th.

Why the Fee Structure is Unfair

When a copyright holder initiates a claim in the CCB, the respondent – the individual they are bringing to the CCB for a copyright infringement – has the opportunity to opt out of the CCB proceedings. (In that case the copyright holder can elect to bring the case to federal court.) The Copyright Office has proposed a filing fee of $100 to initiate a claim. However, if the respondent decides to opt out of the CCB proceeding, by the process proposed by the Copyright Office, the claimant is out that entire fee.

We think this proposed filing fee process is cost prohibitive and will deter individual artists from using the CCB. We’re particularly concerned that those filing claims will lose the entire $100 filing fee. Instead, we support the proposal for a split filing fee process: the individual filing a claim initially pays a fee of $25. If the respondent does not opt out of the CCB process, the remainder of the fee, $75, is charged to proceed with the copyright small claims case.

Contact the Copyright Office

We’re asking creators and copyright holders to please contact the Copyright Office by submitting a short comment letter on the NPRM by end of day on November 12th. Submit your comments at the NPRM portal, and be sure to follow the Copyright Office’s submission guidelines. You can submit comments of less than 5,000 characters – we recommend a short comment letter – in the comments field of their online form. Be sure to identify yourself as a creator (a designer, illustrator, etc.) in your comments. You comments should include:

  1. The drawbacks of a flat $100/claim filing fee to you as an individual creator/copyright owner;
  2. the unlikelihood of your use of the new copyright small claims court if the flat fee structure is in place;
  3. the benefits to you as an individual creator/copyright owner if atiered fee structure were adopted, whereby claimants would pay a smaller fee to file a claim and then a larger fee once the other party does not opt out and the case becomes active.

If you would prefer, you can use instead the form letter that’s been drafted for creators to use. Access the form letter here; you can copy the text from the PDF. Remember to add your name to the the bottom of the letter.