CASE Act

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CASE Act of 2019
Great Seal of the United States
Long titleCopyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019

The Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019 (the CASE Act) is a United States law that establishes a small claims court-type system within the United States Copyright Office for copyright owners to seek damages under US$30,000 for copyright violations.

The measure was introduced in the United States House of Representatives on May 1, 2019,[1] and was passed on October 22, 2019.[2] An identical version was introduced in the United States Senate on May 1, 2019.[3]

The CASE Act, along with two other IP-related bills, were included as part of a omnibus spending and COVID-19 relief bill in December 2020, which was passed by Congress on December 21, 2020.[4] President Donald Trump signed the bill into law on December 27, 2020.

Background[edit]

Under federal law, copyright infringement cases must be pursued in federal courts. This can be an expensive and time-consuming option for small copyright owners, particularly for rightsholders of written and visual works. Infringements became more significant with the popularity of the Internet which made sharing material, including those that violated copyrighted, much easier.[5]

While considering the matter of copyright protections for orphan works, the United States Congress recognized these challenges for smaller copyright owners in taking action to protect their own works.[6] In March 2006, the House Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property held a hearing titled "Remedies for Small Claims Copyright", which concluded by instructing the United States Copyright Office to study potential solutions to the matter.[7] The Copyright Office published a report in September 2013 on alternatives to federal litigation for copyright infringements claims. The Copyright Office proposed the idea of a small claims tribunal system that could be run by the Office for copyright owners seeking damages up to US$30,000.[6]

Provisions[edit]

Following the framework proposed by the Copyright Office, the CASE Act would establish a Copyright Claims Board within the Copyright Office. The Claims Board could decide copyright infringement claims filed by any copyright holder, declarations of non-infringement brought by users, and misrepresentation claims (under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act). This Board would be made up of three attorneys, two of which must be knowledgeable in copyright law.[8][9] For works timely registered with the Copyright Office, the maximum statutory damage would be US$15,000 per work and US$30,000 per claim, while unregistered copyrighted works are eligible for half those amounts.[8] The Claims Board may not issue injunctions but can order a party to cease infringement if the parties agree.[8][10]

The process is voluntary; once a claim is filed, respondents have a sixty day period to opt-out.[5][8] If the respondent does not opt out, the Claims Board will make a final determination and assessment of damages, if any.[8][9] This method is not available to seek damages against infringement from federal or state governments or from foreign entities, nor for claims established in pending cases.[9]

Legislative history[edit]

Representative Hakeem Jeffries introduced the CASE Act in 2016[11] and 2017.[12] The House Committee on the Judiciary held a legislative hearing on the 2017 version of bill on September 27, 2018.[13]

Judy Chu (D-CA) and Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced similar legislation on December 8, 2016, titled the Fairness for American Small Creators Act.[14]

The CASE Act of 2019 was introduced on May 1, 2019, in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 2426)[15] by Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Doug Collins (R-GA); and for the first time in the Senate (S. 1273)[16] by Senators John Kennedy (R-LA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI). Original House co-sponsors include: House Committee on the Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and House Committee on the Judiciary Intellectual Property Subcommittee Chairman Hank Johnson (D-GA), as well as Martha Roby (R-AL), Judy Chu (D-CA), Ben Cline (R-VA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).

On October 22, 2019, the House passed H.R. 2426 by a vote of 410-6.[2] Fifteen Members of Congress did not vote.[17] The six "no" votes were: Justin Amash (I-MI), Warren Davidson (R-OH), Greg Gianforte (R-MT), Trent Kelly (R-MS), Thomas Massie (R-KY), and Ralph Norman (R-SC).[17]

On September 12, 2019, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary approved the measure without amendment.[18]

The CASE Act, along with the Trademark Modernization Act and the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act introduced by Senator Thom Tillis that would make commercial streaming of certain types of copyrighted content qualify as a felony crime, were passed as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 on December 21, 2020.[19] Trump signed the bill into law on December 27, 2020.[20]

Support[edit]

On June 26, 2019, in a statement to the House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Register of Copyrights Karyn A. Temple expressed the U.S. Copyright Office’s support for a small claims tribunal system. In her statement, she noted that “...low-dollar but still valuable copyrighted works are frequently infringed with impunity, and individual creators and small businesses often lacking [sic] an effective remedy... For this reason, the Copyright Office strongly supports a small claims tribunal structured along the lines of the proposal detailed in the Copyright Office’s 2013 report."[21]

The bipartisan legislation is also supported by groups such as the Copyright Alliance,[22] Professional Photographers of America,[23] American Society of Media Photographers,[24] International Authors Forum,[25] the Authors Guild[26] the Graphic Artists Guild,[27] the NAACP, AFL-CIO,[28] the American Conservative Union,[29] and the American Bar Association,[30] as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,[31] and thousands of independent creators and small businesses across the United States. Proponents of the bill support the Copyright Office’s findings that the small claims tribunal will provide a more financially accessible alternative to federal court, and will enable creators to protect their copyrighted material more effectively. Additionally, the Claims Board would be able to determine whether use of a copyrighted work constitutes fair use.

In response to criticism concerns, a statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Intellectual Property on July 30, 2019, Register Temple said, “I am pleased to note that the legislation that was recently passed out of the full Senate Judiciary Committee contains several provisions to help address these concerns... These provisions, combined with the extensive notice requirements and due process safeguards for respondents, would provide important safeguards against the use of the CCB by bad faith claimants.”[32]

Criticism[edit]

Public interest groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF),[33] Public Knowledge,[34] and the Authors Alliance[35] have opposed the bill, claiming that the CASE Act is still not enough to appropriately protect individuals from "sophisticated actors" (corporations, copyright "trolls" and similar abusers). These critics argue that a copyright office tribunal established outside of the judicial system will be unconstitutional, an opt-out system from this tribunal will open up unknowing parties to be blindsided with little recourse, and the tribunal's statutory limits allow for outrageously steep penalties.[35] Other law experts stated that the larger copyright owners may target fair use and de minimis usages and coerce those using legal usage of copyrighted works to either stop using them or seek legal support for the tribunal.[5]

There was also criticism from those that supported small copyright creators, stating that the opt-out provision gives infringers too much power to reject the use of the Claims Court and force creators to use the federal courts to seek penalties.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jeffries, Hakeem S. (2019-10-23). "Actions - H.R.2426 - 116th Congress (2019-2020): Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019". www.congress.gov. Archived from the original on 2019-12-10. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
  2. ^ a b "FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 578". Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. October 22, 2019. Archived from the original on October 23, 2019. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  3. ^ Kennedy, John (2019-09-12). "S.1273 - 116th Congress (2019-2020): CASE Act of 2019". www.congress.gov. Archived from the original on 2019-11-14. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2020-12-22. Retrieved 2020-12-24.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ a b c d Grant, Daniel (March 27, 2020). "US copyright law comes under scrutiny as new legislation makes its way before Congress". The Art Newspaper. Archived from the original on December 24, 2020. Retrieved December 21, 2020.
  6. ^ a b "Copyright small claims: a report of the register of copyrights" (PDF). United States Copyright Office. September 2013. Archived (PDF) from the original on October 17, 2020. Retrieved December 21, 2020.
  7. ^ "Remedies for Small Claims Copyright Hearing" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2019-11-06. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
  8. ^ a b c d e "Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2020" (PDF). U.S. Copyright Office. Retrieved February 8, 2021.
  9. ^ a b c Weller, Susan Neuberger (January 8, 2020). "Congress Considers Creation of a "Copyright Claims Board" as an Alternative to Handle Small Copyright Claims". National Law Review. Archived from the original on October 22, 2020. Retrieved December 21, 2020.
  10. ^ Jeffries, Hakeem S. (2019-10-23). "§1504(c)(1), H.R.2426 - 116th Congress (2019-2020): Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019". www.congress.gov. Archived from the original on 2019-11-01. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
  11. ^ Jeffries, Hakeem S. (2016-07-27). "H.R.5757 - 114th Congress (2015-2016): CASE Act of 2016". www.congress.gov. Archived from the original on 2019-11-06. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
  12. ^ Jeffries, Hakeem S. (2018-09-27). "H.R.3945 - 115th Congress (2017-2018): CASE Act of 2017". www.congress.gov. Archived from the original on 2019-11-14. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
  13. ^ "H.R. 3945, the "Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2017"". Committee on the Judiciary - Democrats. 2018-09-27. Archived from the original on 2019-11-06. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
  14. ^ "Reps. Judy Chu and Lamar Smith Introduce Small Claims Reform for Creators". Archived from the original on 2019-11-06. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
  15. ^ H.R. 2426 Archived 2019-05-06 at the Wayback Machine, U.S. Congress.
  16. ^ S. 1273 Archived 2020-04-14 at the Wayback Machine, U.S. Congress.
  17. ^ a b "FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 578". Archived from the original on 2019-10-23. Retrieved 2019-10-23.
  18. ^ "S. Rept. 116-105 - COPYRIGHT ALTERNATIVE IN SMALL-CLAIMS ENFORCEMENT (CASE) ACT OF 2019". Archived from the original on 2019-11-06. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
  19. ^ Kelly, Makena (December 21, 2020). "Sweeping new copyright measures poised to pass in spending bill". The Verge. Archived from the original on December 21, 2020. Retrieved December 21, 2020.
  20. ^ Bennett, Kate; Liptak, Kevin; Mattingly, Phil; Luhby, Tami (December 27, 2020). "Trump signs coronavirus relief and government funding bill into law after lengthy delay". CNN. Retrieved December 27, 2020.
  21. ^ "Statement of Karyn A. Temple, United States Register of Copyrights, Before the Committee on the Judiciary, United States House of Representatives" (PDF). Copyright.gov. June 26, 2019. Archived (PDF) from the original on November 4, 2019. Retrieved November 1, 2019.
  22. ^ "Copyright Small Claims". Copyright Alliance. Archived from the original on May 6, 2019. Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  23. ^ "Big Day for Copyright Advocacy on Capitol Hill, says Professional Photographers of America (PPA)". PRWeb. Archived from the original on 2019-09-06. Retrieved 2019-11-04.
  24. ^ ASMP (2019-07-19). "Press Release: ASMP Applauds Senate Judiciary Committee for Passing the CASE Act (S. 1273)". ASMP. Archived from the original on 2019-08-09. Retrieved 2019-08-09.
  25. ^ "US authors make CASE for small-claims court". International Authors Forum. 2019-07-17. Archived from the original on 2019-08-09. Retrieved 2019-08-09.
  26. ^ "Please Support Small Copyright Claims (CASE Act)". The Authors Guild. 2019-07-09. Archived from the original on 2019-08-09. Retrieved 2019-08-09.
  27. ^ "Update on the CASE Act". Graphic Artists Guild. Archived from the original on July 24, 2019. Retrieved July 24, 2019.
  28. ^ "Letter Supporting Legislation That Would Protect Artistic Creators | AFL-CIO". aflcio.org. Archived from the original on 2019-11-04. Retrieved 2019-11-04.
  29. ^ ACU (2019-10-09). "ACU Leads Coalition Letter in Support of the CASE Act". ACU. Archived from the original on 2019-11-04. Retrieved 2019-11-04.
  30. ^ The Case for the CASE Act Archived 2019-10-27 at the Wayback Machine - The Hill
  31. ^ "U.S. Chamber Letter Supporting S. 1273 and H.R. 2426, "CASE Act"". U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 2019-05-02. Archived from the original on 2019-11-14. Retrieved 2019-11-04.
  32. ^ "Statement of Karyn A. Temple, United States Register of Copyrights, Before the Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate" (PDF). Copyright.gov. July 30, 2019. Archived (PDF) from the original on November 4, 2019. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  33. ^ Stoltz, Mitch; McSherry, Corynne (November 29, 2017). "Congress Shouldn't Turn the Copyright Office Into A Copyright Court". Archived from the original on December 9, 2018. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  34. ^ Stella, Shiva (May 1, 2019). "Public Knowledge Opposes Copyright Bill Creating Unaccountable "Small-Claims" Court". Archived from the original on July 14, 2019. Retrieved July 15, 2019.
  35. ^ a b Sheehan, Kerry Maeve (June 4, 2019). "COPYRIGHT LAW HAS A SMALL CLAIMS PROBLEM. THE CASE ACT WON'T SOLVE IT". Archived from the original on October 12, 2019. Retrieved July 15, 2019.

Further reading[edit]

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