Copyright ‘Small Claims’

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Copyright ‘Small Claims’

Jan 26, 2022

Our seventh minisode of the fifth season of “The Creative Influencer” podcast is available today for download on iTunes, Spotify, and premier platforms everywhere. In this minisode, Jon talks about a new copyright ‘small claims’ process that will help creators protect their work more economically.


A transcript of the episode follows:

Today’s minisode is about the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act or CASE act.

The CASE act is a new law that goes into effect later this year and sets new procedures for essentially a “small claims” court for copyright claims.

Think of it as a new form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), specifically for relatively small copyright issues, the eventual damages for which must fall below a cap—$15,000 per claim and $30,000 total—on any potential award to the prevailing party.

Why do we need something like this? Copyright litigation can be very expensive – one estimate from the American Intellectual Property Law Association suggests that the average cost of a case in recent years, including appeals, runs over $278,000. Individual creators, especially photographers, and their associations lobbied Congress for more than a decade in pursuit of this new procedural pathway.

Once the Copyright Office gets the whole new small claims system set up by mid 2022, a creator who believes their work has been infringed will be able to bring a complaint to a new “Copyright Claims Board” by filing out a web form and sending in a fee. From there, the Copyright Claims Board reviews the claim to make sure it is something that can be handled by this process and if it is, the board notifies the parties of the pending case. The procedure is designed to be straight-forward to reduce time and costs.

It’s worth noting that the new procedure is voluntary. Both sides in the dispute have a simple opt-out option. This is significant, since it is to be seen what abuse (is any) there may be by certain players in this regard… think of some “Bad Mega Company” being a defendant in a lot of cases but still able to just opt out of the small claims, knowing that it is more expensive for the other side to sue them in regular federal district court and hoping to keep them away from the cost of regular copyright litigation.

Although this may indeed be a problem in cases where one of the sides has deep pockets and is playing games, but largely I suspect this actually going the other way. First, of course, in the age of social media, it is hard to think that “Bad Mega Company” could get away with bullying tactics for long.

In addition, I think we are going to see a tidal wave of new claims by creatives who used to not be able to afford a copyright suit, but can now protect their rights more immediately and more cost-effectively under this new structure.

We’ll keep an eye on this and let you know what happens.

The Creative Influencer is a weekly podcast where we discuss all things creative with an emphasis on Influencers. It is hosted by Jon Pfeiffer, an entertainment attorney in Santa Monica, California. Jon interviews influencers, creatives and the professionals who work with them.

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