Monday, July 15, 2019

CASE Act Would Make Copyright Protections for Small Claims a Reality

Online infringement of copyrighted sound recordings and movies is widespread on popular user-upload Internet websites like YouTube. Mass infringement on user-upload sites deprives copyright owners of their exclusive right in their creative works – including their right to the proceeds of their creations. Unfortunately, the heavy costs of civil litigation in federal court, including lawyer fees, make it uneconomical for many copyright owners to obtain justice under law. 

On July 18, the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider S.1273, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act – or CASE Act. Introduced by Senators John Kennedy, Dick Durbin, Thom Tillis, and Mazie Hirono, the bipartisan CASE Act would establish a Copyright Claims Board within the U.S. Copyright Office. The Copyright Claims Board would administer a voluntary small-claims process for addressing many types of copyright infringement claims. Such a small claims process would make it simpler and less expensive for independent creators, including songwriters and recording artists, film makers, photographers, and graphic artists, to vindicate their intellectual property rights. The Senate Judiciary's schedule vote on the CASE Act is welcome news, and a hopeful step toward modernization of copyright law for the Digital Age. (A companion bill, H.R. 2426, also has been filed in the 116th Congress.)

In our Perspectives from FSF Scholars paper “Modernizing Civil Copyright Enforcement for the Digital Age Economy: The Need for Notice-and-Takedown Reforms and Small Claims Relief,” FSF President Randolph May and I make the case for why Congress should update civil enforcement provisions by establishing a small claims process for copyright infringement claims within the Copyright Office.