Copyright small-claims court may soon be a reality. This week, corresponding bills were introduced in the House and Senate, both with bipartisan support, proposing to establish a tribunal to adjudicate copyright infringement disputes involving claims of $30,000 or less in damages.
Back in 2017, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2017 ("CASE Act") was introduced to establish a copyright small claims system for bringing actions for smaller-scale infringements. That bill expired, however, without being passed. This week, new CASE Act bills were introduced in both Congressional houses to renew the effort. The bills are both named the “Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019.” The House bill (H.R. 2426) was introduced by Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Doug Collins (R-GA), and the Senate bill (S. 1273) was introduced by John Kennedy (R-LA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).
The tribunal proposed by both bills is voluntary -- all parties to the proceeding must opt-in. There are also various other limitations on the proposed proceeding that distinguish it from a copyright infringement claim in federal court, such as the waiver of the right to seek injunctive relief and a lower limit on recoverable statutory damages. In return, the parties are provided access to a forum that is intended to be cheaper and faster than federal court.
According to Collins, “The U.S. economy depends on our ability to ensure intellectual property, including copyrights, is protected. The CASE Act would establish a copyright small claims court to give creators the ability to protect their livelihoods and fight back against infringement of their works."
We will continue to monitor and report on the CASE Act's progress as it winds its way through the legislature.
“The establishment of the Copyright Claims Board is critical for the creative middle class who deserve to benefit from the fruits of their labor,” said Jeffries. “Copyright enforcement is essential to ensure that these artists, writers, musicians and other creators are able to commercialize their creative work in order to earn a livelihood. The CASE Act will enable creators to enforce copyright protected content in a fair, timely and affordable manner. This legislation is a strong step in the right direction.”