This month the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019 (“CASE Act”) was introduced in the Senate (S. 1273) by a number of Senators including Dick Durbin of Illinois and in the House (H.R. 2426) by Representatives Hakeem Jeffries and Doug Collins. The CASE Act seeks to provide individual creators and small businesses, who create the vast majority of creative works but are the least able to afford costly intellectual property litigation, with an affordable forum to adjudicate small claims against copyright infringers. The CASE Act would create the equivalent of a small claims court within the United States Copyright Office. The bill (referred to informally as “the small claims bill”) closely track recommendations made by the Copyright Office in its comprehensive 2013 study on the subject. The CASE Act has received sizeable bipartisan support in both houses.
Important elements of the CASE Act include provisions that would:
- Cap damages at $30,000 per proceeding (and preclude awards of injunctive relief);
- Create a Copyright Claim Board (“CCB”) comprised of three judges with copyright law and alternative dispute resolution experience;
- Make participation voluntary by allowing an alleged infringer to opt out of the small claims process (which would require the copyright owner to file an infringement claim in federal court);
- Allow the entire proceeding to be conducted on paper, obviating in-person appearances;
- Require parties to pay their own attorney fees, if any;
- Discourage bad faith claims, counterclaims, and defenses by (1) permitting fee shifting awards to be entered against bad actors, and (2) barring “repeat offenders” from filing claims before the CCB for a period of time.