Progress is being made in both the House of Representative and the Senate on the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act of 2019, but the bill needs your help. Please reach out to your Senators and Representatives and ask them to support the CASE Act, which would establish an accessible and efficient forum to resolve “small” copyright claims. The legislation would allow individual authors and others to protect their copyrights without having to file expensive and complicated federal lawsuits. It was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Doug Collins (R-GA), and in the Senate by Sens. John Kennedy (R-LA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and it has over 40 sponsors in the House and 5 in the Senate.
The Authors Guild has been actively advocating for a small copyright claims court since 2006, when we testified before the House Judiciary Committee about the need for such a venue, and referred to our survey that revealed most authors don’t have effective access to the courts for many of their copyright infringement claims. Civil litigation is far too expensive—a minimum of $300,000 or so, much greater than the value of many writers’ claims. This means that for most authors, copyright is a right without a remedy.
As the threats to authors’ copyright incentives have only increased since 2006—due to the growth of digital book piracy and courts’ reluctance to enforce copyright in the digital arena—so have our efforts to establish a small claims court. The tribunal will be housed at the Copyright Office and will decide infringement disputes remotely in a streamlined process—without having to travel, hire lawyers, or engage in extensive discovery or pleadings. At the House of Representatives’s recent Copyright Office Oversight hearing, Copyright Register Karyn Temple came out in favor of the CASE Act, saying “the Copyright Office strongly supports a small claims tribunal.” The Guild has been working with Congressman Jeffries’s office on the CASE Act, and it addresses many of the difficult issues involved with creating an effective small copyright claims tribunal.
What You Can Do
After years of work, this bill is expected to be debated and marked up in the Senate this July, and in the House soon after. The more your Senators and Representatives know you support this bill, the more likely it is to pass. Read the rest of our statement on the CASE Act and contact your Representative and your Senator expressing your support for the CASE Act.
Below is a sample letter you can send to your representatives (or use as a script when you call.)
I am writing to urge you to co-sponsor and support, the CASE Act (S. 1273/H. 2426), a bill that would create a copyright small claims court for professional creators and small businesses like me.
I am among the millions of creators who rely on copyright law to sustain our livelihoods and protect our creativity, labor, and investment in the creation and distribution of new creative works.
The CASE Act is crucial not just to me but to all of America’s photographers, illustrators, authors, songwriters and other creators and small businesses that own copyrighted works. For most of us, protecting our rights is out of reach. Currently, federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction for copyright claims and federal litigation is expensive. The fact is that most creators simply can’t afford it. In effect, the U.S. copyright system provides us with rights but no remedies.
A Copyright Small Claims Court as proposed in the CASE Act would address this problem by providing professional creators and small businesses with an easy and streamlined process that is 100% voluntary and affordable to the “little guy.” It would cap damages at 10% of what a creator could get by bringing a case in federal court and includes numerous safeguards to prevent abuse and ensure fairness and due process.
As long as federal court continues to be the sole option, professional creators and the works they contribute will remain at the mercy of infringers. Passing the CASE Act would be a huge step toward ensuring that creators and small business have both the exclusive rights guaranteed to them under the law and a practical way to enforce those rights – i.e. providing both a right and a remedy.
Thank you sincerely for your support!