18 Jan There’s Work to Do on Copyright Small Claims
We’ve never been this close.
For years, creators and visual arts organizations like ours have been asking for a copyright small claims court. In 2016, two bills that were introduced into the House sought to establish such a court, and just last October, the CASE Act (H.R. 3945) was introduced. The CASE Act is widely supported; representatives from both sides of the aisle have signed on to co-sponsor the bill, and articles posted in trade journals, news publications, and industry blogs welcome it.
Why is a copyright small claims court getting so much attention?
The system currently in place for protecting copyrights simply doesn’t work well for individual creators. If your work has been infringed, your only recourse is to take the infringer into federal court – a process that is expensive, time-consuming, and confusing. You’ll need to hire a lawyer, and yet many lawyers won’t take on infringment lawsuits where the potential award is under $30,000, far beyond what can be expected in than many small infringement cases. The federal court systems works for large copyright holders — companies or individuals with high value copyright claims. But for many individual artists, the federal court system is simply out of reach.
A copyright small claims court would give individual creators an alternate path – one that is affordable, easy, and streamlined. And while the system outlined in the CASE Act limits the remedies – for example, statutory damages would be capped at $15,00/work or $30,000 total — the small claims court would be entirely voluntary. That means artists who registered their work, and who have a substantial claim, can still take the case in federal court.
There is work to be done.
While we’re thrilled with the amount of attention the bill has gotten, and the number of representatives across party lines who’ve cosponsored the bill, there is still a lot of work to do. The simple truth is that most bills die in committee. In the last session of Congress (2015-2017), only 3% of the bills introduced were enacted into law. The only way to get The CASE Act moving forward is to keep a spotlight on it.
If your representative is already co-sponsoring the bill, shoot them an email and tell them thank you. Then spread the word to your friends, family, colleagues, teachers, co-workers, etc. Direct them to this article, and to the Copyright Alliance and Copyright Defense pages.
At top of page: the Capitol Building, viewed during our January trip to lobby for copyright small claims.
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