Small Claims Copyright Court? Senate Judiciary Committee Approves the 2019 ‘CASE Act’

On October 4th, 2017, two lawmakers proposed a new small claims court for music artists and other content creators.

Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Tom Marino (R-PA) introduced the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act.

According to both lawmakers, piracy and theft affect all copyright owners. Yet filing paperwork to file an infringement claim usually costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions.

The bipartisan bill, they explained, would help “artists, photographers, film makers, musicians, songwriters, authors, and other creators” enforce their rights against unauthorized reproductions.

If passed, the U.S. Government would create a dedicated Copyright Claims Board.  Three Copyright Claims Officers – appointed by the Librarian of Congress – would serve a six-year term, adjudicating and settling infringement claims.

In addition, the Register of Copyrights would hire no fewer than two full-time Copyright Claims attorneys.  Copyrights holders could then file claims at a small claims court in the US Copyright Office.  Damage awards would be capped at $30,000.

The CASE Act quickly received support from top organizations in the U.S., including the NMPA and Songwriters Guild of America.

Unfortunately, the House of Representatives largely ignored the bill, leading to its expiration.

Now, the re-introduced CASE Act may finally be enacted.

Moving forward with a small claims court.

In May, Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Doug Collins (R-GA) proposed the CASE Act once again.  Aiming to finally set-up the Copyrights Enforcement Board, the bill quickly received support from the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) and the Copyright Alliance, an influential lobbying group.

Senators John Kennedy (R-LA) introduced the same bill in the Senate on May 1st.

Speaking on the importance of the bill’s approval, Tom Kennedy, ASMP’s Executive Director, explained,

Under this legislation, these artists will have a viable alternative to the often prohibitively expensive federal court system, and their creative efforts will be appropriately protected so that they’re incentivized to continue producing works that change how people see their world.

Yet, not everyone agreed with the proposed legislation.

Seeking the bill’s defeat and/or expiration once more, Public Knowledge, a non-profit public interest group, said,

This system, as drafted, is both flatly untenable and unlikely to solve the problems it claims to address.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, or EFF, has blasted the bill as a potential breeding ground for copyright trolls.

Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to move the CASE Act out of committee.  This means the full Senate can now vote on the bill’s approval, despite staunch opposition from both Public Knowledge and the EFF.

This time, each work infringed would remain capped at $15,000.  Creators could sue for up to $30,000.

The 2019 CASE Act’s co-sponsors include Dick Durbin (D-IL), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tom Udall (D-NM), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

Praising the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote, Daryl Friedman, the Recording Academy’s Chief Industry, Government, and Member Relations Officer, explained,

With today’s passage of the CASE Act out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, creators are one step closer to defending their work against copyright infringement.  The many independent songwriters, artists, and producers in our membership will finally have effective remedies to protect against the frequent and willful infringement perpetuated daily by violators across the country.


Featured image by Bjoertvedt (CC by 3.0).

6 Responses

  1. Summer Heat

    Seriously? How can you call this a “court” when it is purely voluntary? The “defendant” need only say, “No, thank you.”

    It’s a joke, right? If plaintiff and defendant wanted to do this now on a voluntary basis they could do so without passing a law and spending money to constitute a “court.”

    It’s beyond explanation that when writing this story the word “voluntary” never appears in its text even though that is fundamental to the bill.

    If this is what passes for artist “rights” I think we can all take a pass.

  2. j

    No thanks scumbags i’ll keep using the regular courts and wasting their resources.

  3. Troll Court

    Great! Now every copyright troll chasing $20K for a bullshit three-chord case of “Infringement” has a court!

  4. Anonymous

    This will break the internet.

    Am I doing this right?

  5. Anonymous

    Oh, for pity’s sake.

    They can reskin it, repaint it, recolor it all they want; it’s still SOPA and still a means to ensure the people cannot enjoy memes. They want to make sure people live in fear of sharing ANYTHING and it’s heartbreaking and angering to see the government try to pass something so anti-American. People, I beg of you, protest CASE! Your lives may depend on it!