January 2021 Update: The CASE Act Creates a New Copyright Small Claims Court
By Jeffrey E. Jacobson, Esq. & Justin M. Jacobson, Esq.
While the U.S. Constitution encourages the development of the arts and sciences through the use of intellectual property legal protections such as copyrights and patents; your ability to effectively enforce your rights in your creations may not be straightforward or feasible. In fact, the typical costs involved in filing a federal copyright infringement lawsuit are hundreds, if not thousands of dollars or more, depending on many different factors. As a result of these substantial upfront costs, many parties have been hindered from pursuing their Constitutionally protected rights through the legally available avenues. In light of this, the U.S. Congress has recently passed new legislation intended to try to rectify this situation. The Copyright Alternative in the Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act was attached to the recently passed stimulus bill. This new legislation establishes a new copyright “small claims” court operating out of the U.S. Copyright Office so that a wronged party is not required to file a lawsuit in federal court for all copyright related matters.
The new court established in the Copyright Office will exist as an alternative forum for copyright infringement litigation claims. It will be located in Washington, D.C. but participating parties will not need to attend hearings in person. Instead, there will be options for the paper and online submission and adjudication of applicable claims. In particular, these new claims will be brought in front of a Copyright Claims Board (CCB) (§1502). The board will decide infringement claims, declarations of non-infringement, misrepresentation, and adjudicate other related defenses and counterclaims. Currently, the available remedies include monetary damages with a cap of $15,000 per work infringed with a total maximum amount of $30,000 per proceeding (§1504(e)(1)(a)(i)-(iii); §1504(e)(1)(d)). Additionally, any potential party is still required to register their copyright(s) prior to using the new court system. The three-year statute of limitations to pursue a copyright infringement claim is still applicable in this new claim system in the same way that it is applicable in the federal courts (§1504(b)(1)).
The actual filing fees have not been established nor announced yet. They are supposed to be established shortly. While the actual use of this new court might have benefits and drawbacks, it will be interesting to see the long-term effect it has on the ability and frequency that a party uses this newly created adjudicatory system.
This article is not intended as legal advice, as an attorney specializing in the field should be consulted.
© 2021 The Jacobson Firm, P.C.