CASE Act: Copyright Small Claims

NANPA Supports the CASE Act—and It Passes

NANPA began working in 2019 to advance the Copyright Alternative Small Claims Enforcement Act, or “CASE Act,” to establish a voluntary small claims process for copyright infringements. Your notes and calls to members of Congress coupled with the persistent and unified efforts of NANPA and other members of the Copyright Alliance helped the CASE Act pass in December of 2020. The law requires that the resulting Copyright Claims Board (CCB) begin operating within one year of the date it was enacted, which would be December 21, 2021. However, there is also a provision allowing for a six-month extension, so at the latest, the CCB should begin operating by late June 2022. LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT TO EXPECT >


How It Happened: The CASE Act’s Journey in Congress

The CASE Act was first introduced in the House in 2017 and reintroduced on May 1, 2019 as H.R. 2426 by Representatives Jeffries (D-NY) and Collins (R-GA) as lead sponsors along with Judiciary Committee Chairman Nadler (D-NY) and IP Subcommittee Chairman Johnson (D-GA), as well as Representatives Roby (R-AL), Chu (D-CA), Cline (R-VA), Lieu (D-CA), Fitzpatrick (R-PA). On October 22, 2019, the CASE Act PASSED THE HOUSE of REPRESENTATIVES 410-6!

NANPA APPLAUDS THE HOUSE FOR ITS LEADERSHIP.

ON TO THE SENATE!

Senators John Kennedy (R-LA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) introduced the CASE Act in the Senate — S. 1273. On July 18, 2019, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill from committee by voice vote, making it eligible for a full Senate vote. Less than 25% of Senate bills emerge from committee.

Unfortunately two Senators held the bill from vote, Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Rand Paul of Kentucky. 

SIGNED INTO LAW

The CASE Act finally passed the Senate, included in the omnibus spending bill sent to the White House on December 21, 2020. President Trump refused to sign the bill for several days, discontent with some of the coronavirus relief provisions in it, but ultimately signed it into law on before the close of the calendar year.


Why is the CASE Act so significant?

What Good is Your Copyright Without a Realistic Remedy?

Federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over copyright but copyright actions in federal court are difficult, expensive and time consuming. The average copyright case currently costs over $278,000 to maintain and years to complete.

Most infringements, however, are relatively small in value and infringed parties often can’t even find an attorney to take their case. These smaller infringements regularly go unchallenged, and many infringers believe that they can steal images with impunity.

For many smaller infringements, creators like nature photographers can reasonably ask what good is their copyright when they have no effective way to enforce it?


A Remedy for Smaller Infringements

The Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act of 2019 (H.R. 2426 S. 1273) helps creators by creating a voluntary small claims process for copyright infringements. The CASE Act creates a voluntary, three judge tribunal within the Copyright Office to quickly and efficiently handle small infringements without the expense and hassle of a copyright action in a federal district court.

Under the CASE Act, the total award (either actual damages or statutory damages) cannot exceed $30,000. If a claimant’s work was registered with Copyright Office at time of infringement, then the claimant is eligible for statutory damages up to $15,000/infringement.

If a claimant’s work was not registered at the time of the infringement, they would still be eligible for statutory damages up to $7,500/infringement. This is a significant difference from a copyright action in federal district court, where failure to register the work before infringement renders all statutory damages unavailable.


CASE Act Opposition

Big Internet Strikes Back

“Big Internet” pushed back hard, using various Internet freedom groups to create false perceptions and frenzied opposition from those who claim the CASE Act is an attack on Internet freedom itself.

Groups like the Electronic Freedom Foundation, Public Knowledge, Engine, Re-Create, and Fight for the Future conducted misleading campaigns to paint the CASE Act as way, for example, for copyright trolls to hit innocent infringers with statutory damages.

One anti-CASE Act campaign by Fight for the Future led with the headline “That meme you shared? It may soon cost you $15,000.”


Misinformation and Fearmongering

This misleading fearmongering follows a familiar but effective playbook, unfortunately, as many have pointed out:

These groups are worked hard to kill the CASE Act with their misinformation campaign. We pushed back hard at the grass-roots level, and you helped make that happen.


*Special thanks to our friends for permission to use the cartoons and graphics on this page (the Copyright Alliance, Professional Photographers of America and JP Schmelzer).