Congress considers small claims court for copyright infringement

Congress is considering establishing a small claims court to handle copyright infringement cases.

Artists, musicians, and other creators have a right to expect that their creative work will be protected against unlawful copyright infringement. While the penalties for copyright infringement are high, bringing a claim forward can be costly and difficult for small and independent creators. As Digital Music News reports, in response to those difficulties, the U.S. Congress is now pushing forward a bill that would create a small claims court that would make it easier for those whose intellectual property rights may have been infringed upon to pursue their claims.

Small claims court for copyright

The bill, called the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act, is a rare bipartisan effort that has a decent, although not a guaranteed, chance of becoming law. If the bill in its current form is passed it would create a Copyright Claims Board, which would be served by three Copyright Claims Officers who would be appointed by the Librarian of Congress to serve six-year terms.

The proposed law would allow copyright holders to file claims with the Copyright Claims Board through the U.S. Copyright Office. Damages would be capped at $15,000 for each claim and $30,000 altogether. In addition, each party to a claim would be able to opt out of the small claims court in order to ensure that the Sixth Amendment right to a trial by jury is still upheld.

Need for a small claims court

While there is no guarantee that the CASE Act will become law, it does have the benefit of being supported by both political parties. There has been bipartisan recognition in recent years of the need for a way for small and independent copyright holders, such as musicians, artists, photographer, and writers, to have a way of enforcing their intellectual property rights.

As Billboard points out, while the statutory damages for willful copyright infringement can be as high as $150,000, the cost of litigating a copyright infringement case is an average of $278,000. Those high costs make copyright cases practical mainly in instances where there have been multiple violations, if it is a class-action lawsuit, or if the copyright holder is a major company with the resources to pursue its claims in court. Independent creators, however, often have a much harder time enforcing their intellectual property rights, which is a problem that a small claims court could go some way towards rectifying.

Copyright claims

Pursuing a copyright claim, as the above article shows, is both complicated and time consuming, which is why copyright holders should seek out the advice of an experienced intellectual property attorney. An attorney can help copyright holders understand what claims they may be able to pursue and how to ensure that their intellectual property rights are enforced and respected.

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