On September 10, 2019, the House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously in favor of H.R. 2426, the Copyright Alternatives in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019 (the “CASE” Act). The bill has already passed the Senate Judiciary Committee (also without opposition), and the next step is for the bill to go before both the entire House and Senate for a vote.
The CASE Act will create a copyright small claims court for creators and small business owners who can’t afford to protect their copyrighted works in federal court. There is currently no way for authors and other creators to enforce their copyrights, which are the basis of their livelihoods, since federal litigation costs at least several hundred thousand dollars, a sum which most individual creators cannot afford and few infringement claims could justify. The CASE Act will create an affordable small claims tribunal to fix that, giving copyright holders a real and viable remedy for infringements. A similar system in place in the U.K. has proven to successfully provide a way for creators to negotiate with people and entities who are willing to license the works at issue (especially where the alternative is a legal dispute).
The CASE Act was approved as the House Judiciary Committee’s last vote of the night. Because of the lateness of the hour, Chair Rep. Jerome Nadler (D-NY) and the bill’s co-sponsor, Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), cut their comments short and agreed to make them part of the Committee’s written record. Co-Sponsor Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), however, took time to speak about the vital importance of copyright to creators, and the impact of copyright protection on their ability to pay the bills. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) voiced her support for the CASE Act and her willingness to work with the bill’s drafters to help the bill pass the Senate.
While this is a wonderful development and a sign of real progress, there is still more work to do and outreach to be made. Representatives and Senators still need to know that writers and other creators among their constituents support this bill.