Small Claims Court for Copyright Cases
As part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, Congress included the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019 (CASE Act). The CASE Act creates a "small claims" tribunal -- the Copyright Claims Board -- within the U.S. Copyright Office for deciding copyright infringement disputes and abuses of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown procedures. The Register of Copyrights will establish implementing regulations.
Disputes would be heard by a three-person panel of claims officers. And, awards for infringement would be capped at $15,000 per infringed work (as opposed to the current statutory limit of $150,000 per work), and $30,000 total for all of the works infringed, excluding any attorneys’ fees and costs that may be awarded.
While the CASE Act was supposed to make it easier for individuals and small businesses to bring claims of infringement for less valuable works, there is a concern that this process could be abused with less meritorious claims. While no party can be forced to participate at the Copyright Claims Board, a party has 60 days to opt-out and have the proceeding be dismissed without prejudice. If the defendant fails to file properly an opt-out notice, the defendant (a) consents to the Board proceeding, (b) forfeits its right to have the dispute in federal court, and (c) waives its right to a jury trial. Thus, timely filing an opt-out notice is essential.