Days before the end of 2020, the United States Congress passed Copyright Small Claims Established Act (CASE) as part of an omnibus spending and COVID-19 relief bill, also known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”) – aimed at helping individuals and businesses that have been affected by the global health crisis. Similar to the CARES act, the CASE act was introduced to better protect copyright owners amidst the pandemic. The Act is aimed at helping small businesses, which otherwise won’t have the funding to pursue litigations against infringers, take their claims to a small-claims court. Here is everything you need to know about the new procedure
What Does the CASE Do?
Over the years, many intellectual property owners and authors whose works have been clearly infringed have been unable to take claims to court and thus deter continuing violations due to the cost of hiring copyright attorneys and maintaining an action in a federal court.
The goal of the CASE act is to remedy this problem.
The CASE Act will streamline copyright disputes through a small claims tribunal – Copyright Claims Board -which will consist of a three-judge panel that will hear cases brought before them and awards damages capped at $15,000 per claim and $30,000 in total. Copyright claims, counterclaims, and defenses can be taken before the tribunal, and claimants may request that the Board facilitate settlement among the parties.
The judges will include a Copyright Claims Officer and two Copyright Claims Attorneys.
The bill requires that the Copyright Claims Board be set up within the U.S. Copyright Office and before the end of 2021.
Why is the CASE Act important?
Most copyright attorneys only take cases of a certain value; damages of less than $30,000, for instance, may not come with enough payout to interest a lawyer. Besides, many lawyers charge steep fees to take on copyright infringement work.
The CASE act enables merchants who can’t afford expensive counsel to represent themselves through the small claims tribunal and save money in the process.
Are there concerns?
While the creation of the Copyright Claims Board will enable creators to enforce copyright-protected content in a fair, timely, and affordable manner, there are looming concerns. One of the biggest flaws of the CASE Act is that a defendant can simply opt-out via affirmative writing. This leaves the copyright owner in the same position they were in without the CASE Act to decide whether the claim is worth taking the defendant to court. Therefore, if the copyright holder is forced out of the system created by the CASE Act and back into court, the underlying purpose of the Act, to promote fair, timely, and affordable protection of copyright-protected content, will be easily defeated. While the premise behind the CASE Act gives hope to more affordable and efficient methods of enforcement under copyright law, the actual outcomes and those implications remain unknown.
The CASE acts offer potential benefits and pose potential drawbacks to both copyright owners and alleged infringers. By establishing copyright claim boards, the Act will provide a lower-cost avenue for litigating copyright infringement claims of up to $30,000. And hopefully, deter infringers. However, defendants can easily opt-out of the proceedings, forcing the claimant to revert back to the federal courts and enabling infringers to continue violations.