By Attorney Edward Jesson
Last December, Congress passed the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2020—better referred to as the CASE Act. The CASE Act instructed the U.S. Copyright Office to create the Copyright Claims Board (“CCB”) as an efficient and user-friendly option to resolve copyright disputes where the amount disputed is less than $30,000.00.
Generally speaking, before the CASE Act, a copyright holder would have had to file a lawsuit in federal district court in order to enforce his or her copyright. The problem with this is that federal litigation is both expensive and time consuming. Many professional content creators and small businesses simply could not afford to enforce their rights under copyright law. Moreover, the people who were infringing on those rights knew that in all likelihood nothing would be done as a result of their copyright infringement.
The CCB will be permitted to hear three different types of claims: (1) Creators bringing infringement claims against people infringing on their copyrights; (2) Users can request that the CCB issue a statement ruling that their use of something does not infringe on the copyright owner’s rights; and (3) Users who receive a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DCMA”) takedown notice (similar to a cease and desist) are able to challenge that notice if they feel it is inaccurate.
It is important to note that, if the copyright holder prefers, they can still bring the claim in federal district court (assuming all other jurisdictional factors are satisfied) or move forwards with mediation and arbitration. Also, the Respondent can “opt-out” of the CCB proceeding, requiring the copyright holder to move forward with a federal lawsuit. However, there are several incentives for those named as respondents in CCB proceedings to opt-in to the proceeding. For example, on top of the cost of litigation in federal court, a successful plaintiff in a federal proceeding can be awarded up to $150,000.00 per work infringed whereas, in the CCB setting, that amount is limited to $15,000.00 per work infringed. The CASE Act also caps the damages that can be awarded by the CCB at $30,000.00 whereas, in federal court, those damages are unlimited.
Once the CCB is fully established (as of writing, it is currently still in the rule making stage), it will provide small businesses and individual creators a cost and time effective way of enforcing their copyrights under federal law. If you believe that your copyright has been infringed or that you have been wrongly accused of infringing on a copyright, please call the attorneys at Jesson & Rains for a consultation on the matter today.
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