On April 30, 2019, the Authors Guild, together with the Romance Writers of America, Novelists Inc., Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, American Society of Journalists and Authors, National Writers Union, Dramatists Guild, Garden Communicators International, and the Horror Writers Association, sent letters in support of the introduction of the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act. The Guild applauds Reps. Jeffries (D-NY), Collins (R-GA), Johnson (D-GA), Roby (R-AL), Chu (D-CA), Cline (R-VA), Lieu (D-CA), Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Judiciary Committee Chair Nadler (D-NY), as well as Sens. Durbin (D-IL), Kennedy (R-LA), Tillis (R-NC), and Hirono (D-HI), who introduced H.R. 2426 in the House and S. 1273 in the Senate respectively. The bills would establish an accessible and efficient forum to resolve “small” copyright claims, providing authors and other copyright owners with a low-cost alternative to time-consuming and expensive federal copyright litigation.

For more than a decade, the Authors Guild has advocated for the need to establish a copyright small claims court. With the many threats staring down authors today—particularly the proliferation of large-scale digital piracy—a small claims court is more necessary than ever. Federal court litigation is unaffordable to authors and other creators because the cost of litigation vastly outstrips the value of most copyright claims. As a result, most creators have been left with unenforceable rights. We hope that’s about to change.

As the nation’s largest and oldest society of professional writers, the Authors Guild wholeheartedly supports this legislation. It is crucial to provide creators with the ability to enforce their copyrights and to receive the benefits and incentives that are at the core of copyright law.

“A right without a remedy is no right at all,” said Authors Guild executive director Mary Rasenberger. “On an individual level, the inability to enforce one’s rights undermines the economic incentive to create new works. On a collective level, it corrodes respect for the rule of law and deprives society of the benefits of creativity.”

The CASE Act would create a streamlined, much less formal process than currently exists in federal court. The parties would not need to hire attorneys and all proceedings would be conducted remotely, drastically reducing the cost. A three-“judge” tribunal within the Copyright Office would hear small copyright cases, allowing damages of up to $15,000 per work and no more than $30,000 in total. The process would also be entirely optional for both parties.

The legislation is fair, balanced, and—importantly—passable. Interested parties have been working on the bill for several years and resolved issues raised by initial opponents about unintentional default judgments and trolls potentially abusing the tribunal. The bill discourages bad faith claims by imposing fees on bad actors and barring chronic offenders. It would also ensure fairness by stipulating that the three “judges” be appointed and removable by the Librarian of Congress, and requiring that two of the three have experience representing a diversity of copyright interests.

“The Authors Guild looks forward to working with both houses of Congress to see that a Copyright Small Claims Court is finally established,” said Rasenberger. “Too many authors have been left without real remedies for too long.”

 

ABOUT THE AUTHORS GUILD

The Authors Guild has served as the collective voice of American authors since its beginnings in 1912. Its almost 10,000 members include novelists, historians, journalists, and poets—traditionally and independently published—as well as literary agents and representatives of writers’ estates. The Guild is dedicated to creating a community for authors while advocating for them on issues of copyright, fair contracts, free speech, and tax fairness. Please visit www.authorsguild.org.