The Authors Guild is thrilled to report that the House of Representatives passed the CASE Act (H.R. 2426) by an overwhelming vote of 410-6!
We thank our many members who supported the CASE Act and wrote letters and made phone calls to their representatives urging passage, as well as the many other creator associations and allies who worked so hard with us on this legislation. This is the first legislation in many decades that benefits middle-class creators—a huge part of the American economy that is so often overlooked. In a massive, collective call to action, dozens of creator groups joined together to demand the establishment of a copyright small claims tribunal. Currently, without a lower-cost way to enforce their rights—rights on which their profession and ability to earn a living are based—creators have no practical way to ensure that they are paid when their works are used, despite the fact that their rights are enshrined in the Constitution. The Copyright Act provides only for federal copyright litigation, which these days costs on average almost $400,000 in legal fees and costs, even for a relatively simple claim. Today, full-time authors earn a median annual income of $20,300 and so federal litigation is simply not an option. Tens of thousands of disenfranchised individual and small creators joined together to say “no more!” Their demands for equal access to justice were met with resounding, bipartisan support in the House of Representatives.
As the nation’s oldest and largest professional author association, the Authors Guild has advocated for the establishment of such a copyright small claims tribunal for years; as early as 2006, the Guild testified on the matter before the U.S. Copyright Office. And since the Copyright Office conducted a multi-year study of the issue and released a report in 2013 recommending legislation to create a small claims tribunal, the Authors Guild has been actively involved in crafting and lobbying for the legislation.
According to Executive Director Mary Rasenberger, “A right without a remedy is no right at all. 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.”
“At its core, this is a question of the independent and small content creator’s 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. The CASE Act will change this by providing creators with a voluntary, inexpensive, and streamlined alternative that they can use to protect their rights, their creativity, and their livelihoods.”
The Authors Guild would like to thank the many members of Congress and of the creative community who persevered through this journey and garnered such overwhelming support in the House. At the top of the list are Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY)—who initiated the legislation (and who we honored at our May 2019 Gala)—and Doug Collins (R-GA) for their leadership in introducing the CASE Act in the House. We also thank the original co-sponsors of H.R. 2426, Representatives Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Martha Roby (R-AL), Judy Chu (D-CA), Ben Cline (R-VA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), as well as Judy Chu (D-CA), who introduced an earlier version of the bill and has been a fierce supporter. Our appreciation extends to the 142 additional co-sponsors in the House who came on board to support this critical legislation.
As thrilled as we are, we are not at the finish line yet. The Senate must pass the bill, and two Senators have placed hold on the bill: Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY). We still have much work to do to ensure the bill passes in the Senate. When it does, it will be a historic moment for creators, who, despite being the heart and soul of the copyright law, are so often overlooked in its implementation.
We look forward to working with the Senate and other stakeholders as the CASE Act moves to the Senate floor and eventually to the Oval Office.