Congress Passes CASE Act to Create Small Claims Tribunal in the Copyright Office
Authors Guild Played Key Advocacy Role in Securing Passage of the New Law
NEW YORK (December 22, 2020)—Authors and creators just got a major tool in their arsenal to protect their works after the U.S. Congress enacted the Copyright Alternative in Small Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act, which allows the resolution of copyright claims—including claims for infringement—as an alternative to costly federal litigation. The CASE Act passed as part of the $1.4 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, Congress’s year-end government funding package.
“The CASE Act is a very important win for authors. It gives them a practical channel for seeking remedies for the violation of their rights. Until now, authors and other creators have had no way to enforce their rights except to bring expensive federal lawsuits. This has left writers with no ability to fight pirates or big companies, who can outlitigate them, for stealing their work,” said Authors Guild President Doug Preston.
The CASE Act creates a forum called the Copyright Claims Board within the U.S. Copyright Office to hear copyright claims of up to $15,000 per claim and an aggregate of $30,000. The cost of bringing a claim will range between a minimum of $100 and a maximum of the filing cost of an action in federal district court (currently $350), and the claims will be heard by a panel of three Copyright Claims Officers appointed by the Librarian of Congress, at least two of whom must have experience representing both owners and users of copyrighted works. An opt-out process built into the legislation ensures that the tribunals adhere to constitutional requirements. The legislation ultimately ensures that individual content creators and other copyright owners who depend on copyright for their livelihoods but can’t afford the costs of protracted litigation gain access to justice.
“Copyright law should protect all creators, but the unfortunate fact is that it only protects those who can afford the high costs of federal court and legal representation. With the average cost of federal litigation at $400,000, pursuing a remedy for their rights is impossible for most authors—even the best-selling ones. The CASE Act changes this by providing authors with a voluntary, inexpensive and streamlined alternative that they can use to protect their rights, their creativity and their livelihoods,” said Authors Guild CEO Mary Rasenberger.
Role of the Authors Guild
As the nation’s oldest and largest professional author association, the Authors Guild has been advocating for the establishment of such a copyright small claims tribunal for more than 14 years. Beginning in 2006, the Guild testified on the matter before the U.S. Copyright Office and participated in the Copyright Office’s multi-year study of the issue, culminating in a 2013 report recommending legislation to create a small claims tribunal, and we have actively worked on crafting the bills in this and the past two congressional sessions, lobbying members of Congress and activating grassroots support in conjunction with other creator organizations. Beginning in 2019, the Guild also asked its more than 10,000 members to contact their state representatives and encourage them to pass the bill into law. In October 2019, the CASE Act passed in the House of Representatives 410-6, a huge bipartisan win, but later stalled in the Senate. Its enactment into law today as part of Congress’s year-end appropriations package is a testament to the tireless advocacy of the Guild and dozens of creator organizations who worked together to make their voices heard in the halls of Congress.
About the Authors Guild
The Authors Guild is the nation’s oldest and largest professional organization for writers. Its mission is to empower working writers by advocating for the rights of authors and journalists. The Guild protects free speech and authors’ copyrights, fights for fair contracts and a living wage and provides an engaged and welcoming community for all published authors. For more, visit www.authorsguild.org.