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Small Claims Court for Copyright Violations

Small claims
Authors, musicians, photographers and other creators just got an important tool in their efforts to fight copyright infringements. The U.S. Congress just passed the Small Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act, which provides for the resolution of copyright claims – including claims for infringement – as an alternative to expensive litigation in federal courts. The case act was passed as part of Congress’ year-end Government funding package and signed by President Trump.

The new law is a practical way for artists to fight theft and pirating of their work. It creates a Copyright Claims Board as part of the US Copyright Office, which will hear copyright claims of up to $15,000 per claim and a total of $30,000. The cost of bringing a claim will range between a minimum of $100 and a maximum of the filing fee for a case in federal court, which is currently $350.

The Claims Board will be a panel of 3 copyright claims officers who are attorneys, at least 2 of whom must have experience representing both owners and users of copyrighted works. Although the effectiveness of this new “copyright court” is yet to be determined, the intent of the law is to give content creators and other copyright owners a way to resolve their claims when they can’t afford high legal fees. The process is voluntary, meaning that both sides must agree to it. But the same incentive exists for copyright violators – avoiding lawyer’s fees and lengthy litigation. The vast majority of copyright infringements in the United States are of relatively low value.