CASE Act: A Small Claims Copyright Court Is Getting Closer to Reality

What if smaller copyright infringement cases could be quickly resolved in the U.S. legal system — just like Small Claims Court?  That’s the idea behind the newly-revived CASE Act.

We’ve been covering various initiatives in U.S. Congress to create a small claims copyright litigation court, though the idea had previously failed.  Not this time, however.

After initially failing to get the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act off the ground in late-2017, Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Tom Marino (R-PA) managed to resuscitate the bill this year.  By May 1st, it was formally re-introduced, and quickly .

Now, things are progressing further.  Just last night (September 10th), the House Judiciary Committee also passed the CASE Act, setting it up for a broader vote.  

If passed, the U.S. Government would create a dedicated Copyright Claims Board.  Three Copyright Claims Officers – appointed by the Librarian of Congress – would serve a six-year term, adjudicating and settling infringement claims.

In addition, the Register of Copyrights would hire no fewer than two full-time Copyright Claims attorneys.  Copyrights holders could then file claims at a small claims court in the US Copyright Office.  Damage awards would be capped at $30,000.

The Recording Academy, which oversees the Grammy Awards, applauded the move.  “With the House Judiciary Committee’s passage of the CASE Act, music creators are one step closer to having a simpler and more cost-effective way to defend their original works against infringement,” Daryl Friedman, Chief Industry, Government & Member Relations Officer of the Recording Academy, emailed Digital Music News.

“I urge both chambers to pass this legislation to eliminate the unfair advantage against creators that currently exists in copyright law and protect the bility of the music industry.”

Representative Doug Collins (R-GA) was similarly enthusiastic.  “If the CASE Act is signed into law, it will create a more streamlined and significantly less costly means for photographers, songwriters and graphic designers to fight property theft and protect their livelihoods,” Collins relayed.  “I would encourage all of my colleagues in both the House and the Senate to support and pass the CASE Act.”

Critics are largely coming from the tech side.

That includes Public Knowledge and EFF, both widely regarded as mouthpieces for Google.  Both organizations have warned against the perils of a small claims court, largely because it will invite abuse.

“We recognize that federal litigation can be expensive, making the pursuit of many small-dollar-value claims impractical for copyright holders,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) recently stated.  “But we believe that much of that expense results from procedures that promote fairness, established and refined through decades of use. Creating a new, parallel system that allows copyright holders to dispense with those procedures invites abuse, especially given the Copyright Office’s institutional bias.
“In attempting to solve a problem for some copyright holders, Congress must not create new incentives for the abuse and exploitation of individual Internet users by unscrupulous litigation businesses.”