On September 21st, the Copyright Society of the USA, the Congressional Caucus on Intellectual Property Promotion and Piracy Prevention, and the Copyright Alliance co-sponsored The Big Deal About Copyright Small Claims — a discussion on the role of a small claims process as a possible alternative for certain types of copyright litigation….
Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) delivered the opening remarks. Both lawmakers highlighted a few key points: (1) protecting intellectual property is a bipartisan issue and (2) “middle class” creators rely on copyright to protect their work and to earn a living, but (3) the current legal framework leaves individual creators, who often lack the financial resources to sue in federal court, devoid of an effective remedy for infringement. The solution? In July, Rep. Jeffries, along with Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) introduced H.R. 5757, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2016, which proposes, as an alternative to federal court, a voluntary small claims process where damages would be capped at $30,000. Rep. Chu said in her remarks that she is also working on legislation and hopes to share draft language in the near future….
Rick Carnes, a songwriter out of Nashville and President of the Songwriters Guild of America, has had plenty of experience with the misperception that creative works are free for the taking. He explained that although it’s frustrating to see his work constantly infringed online, the cost and complexity of litigation under the current system “just doesn’t work” for individual artists like himself. He believes that “a simplified system that will solve these problems is in everybody’s best interest.”
Nancy Wolff, partner at Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard, added that in the UK, which has its own copyright small claims system, the process gets used less than one might think. Why? The easier it is for creators to protect their work, the more careful people are about how they use others’ content, and the simple fact that such a streamlined process exists encourages parties on both sides to come to an agreement.