CASE Act Part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021
Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act (the CASE Act)
Until now individual creators were limited to the expensive and complex federal court system to enforce their rights. With today’s passage of the CASE Act, creators will have a voluntary, inexpensive and streamlined alternative — a small claims tribunal that will be housed within the U.S. Copyright Office — enabling them to defend their copyrighted works from infringement.
December 22, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, bipartisan legislation led by U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), John Kennedy (R-LA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) that would establish the Copyright Claims Board at the Copyright Office is expected to be signed into law. The CASE Act makes it easier and less expensive for independent creators, such as photographers, songwriters, and graphic artists, to protect their creative works from theft. The CASE Act was included in the year-end spending package that is expected to be signed into law this week. The legislation passed the House last year with 410 votes and was reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee by unanimous voice vote.
“I applaud my colleagues for passing this legislation so independent artists can rely on copyright laws to protect their work,” said Senator Tillis. “The current system makes it difficult for them to recover damages in a cost-effective manner, and this bipartisan bill will provide a more efficient way for copyright owners to protect their intellectual property and ensure that content creators can be properly paid.”
“Creative ideas are your property, whether you’re a photographer or an independent movie director,” said Senator Kennedy. “It shouldn’t cost you a fortune to protect your creativity from copyright infringement, so it’s good to see the funding package include the CASE Act to create a legal avenue for artists to pursue copyright violations more quickly and less expensively. Louisiana’s rich culture and history are rooted in the successes of talented artists, musicians and authors. This is a key way to ensure Americans’ creative spirit is preserved and protected.”
“The CASE Act will create a voluntary small claims process to help individual creators and small businesses resolve copyright disputes quickly and at reasonable cost,” said Senator Durbin. “This broadly bipartisan legislation passed the House of Representatives last year with 410 votes and was reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee by unanimous voice vote. This important bill is the product of years of hard work and deliberation, and I thank my bipartisan group of colleagues in the Senate and House for their efforts to get it across the finish line.”
“For too long, the copyright system has left no practical way for many creators to protect their rights as copyright holders,” said Senator Hirono. “By creating the Copyright Claims Board, this legislation establishes a venue where small creators can actually enforce their intellectual property rights and finally be appropriately paid for their work.”
Supporters of the CASE Act include:
ACT|the App Association
Alliance for Women Film Composers
American Association of Independent Music
American Bar Association
American Conservative Union
American Intellectual Property Law Association
American Photographic Artists
American Society for Collective Rights Licensing
American Society of Journalists and Authors
American Society of Media Photographers
Association of American Publishers
Association of Health Care Journalists
Conservatives for Property Rights
Digital Media Licensing Association
Dramatists Guild of America
Future of Music Coalition
Garden Communicators International
Graphic Artists Guild
Horror Writers’ Association
Independent Book Publishers Association
Institute for Intellectual Property and Social Justice
International Authors Forum
Latin Recording Academy
Living Legends Foundation
Nashville Songwriters Association International
National Music Publishers Association
National Press Photographers Association
National Small Business Association
National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981
News Media Alliance
North American Nature Photography Association
Professional Photographers of America
Recording Industry Association of America
Romance Writers of America
Rhythm & Blues Foundation
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America
Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA)
Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council
Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators
Society of Composers and Lyricists
Songwriters Guild of America
Songwriters of North America
U.S. Black Chambers, Inc.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
The legislative text may be found here: https://rules.house.gov/sites/democrats.rules.house.gov/files/BILLS-116HR133SA-RCP-116-68.pdf
CASE ACT is in Division Q on page 2544 (page 77 of Division Q)
TMA (page 139 of Division Q).
The House released the following official summaries of these IP provisions:
Summary of Intellectual Property Package
The Intellectual Property package contains three components. The first imposes felony penalties for unauthorized, high-volume streaming of copyrighted material. The second is the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act (S.1273), which establishes the Copyright Claims Board within the U.S. Copyright Office to provide a lower-cost, opt-out alternative to traditional federal litigation for certain copyright infringement claims. The final component is the Trademark Modernization Act (H.R. 6196), which makes it easier to dispute and expunge trademarks obtained in bad faith-a common practice among Chinese counterfeiters.
Felony Streaming The felony streaming provision emerged from negotiations among legitimate broadcasters, copyright owners, and civil liberties groups to address the issue of high-volume piratical streaming sites. Pirate sites that stream infringing copies of American copyrighted works, including pre-release works, with no payments to American creators currently face only misdemeanor charges based upon their copyright infringement. This provision would create a felony penalty for streaming operations whose primary purpose is to distribute infringing copies with no other commercially significant purpose. The felony penalties would not reach individuals or low-volume infringers.
Copyright Small Claims Based upon the results of a 2013 study by the U.S. Copyright Office, the CASE Act (Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act) creates a lower-cost, opt-out alternative dispute resolution process at the Copyright Office -the Copyright Claims Board (CCB)- to resolve disputes over copyright infringement cases and bad faith Section 512 takedown notices. Parties would not be required to retain attorneys. Law school clinics can provide representation. Defendants who do not wish to have the dispute heard before the Board can freely opt-out in order to have the dispute heard before an Article III court. The CCB is expected to resolve fewer than 1,000 disputes per year. Statutory damages for infringement claims would be limited to a maximum of $15,000 per claim or $30,000 per case in contrast to the damages cap of $150,000 per claim in an Article III court. Article III litigation is not a cost-effective way to address bad-faith Section 512 notices and takedown claims. The CCB would provide a cost-effective alternative. Two modifications from the introduced version of the legislation include allowing the Copyright Office to delay startup by six months in response to COVID or other reasons and an ability for libraries and archives to submit a no cost, blanket opt-out. CBO estimated a $10 million cost over 5 years, but could not determine the amount of offsetting CCB filing fees that would be collected under the bill because the demand for CCB services is unclear.
Trademark Modernization Act The Trademark Modernization Act would make it easier to dispute and expunge trademarks obtained in bad faith from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Currently, Chinese counterfeiters routinely file for trademark registrations using altered images of legitimate products to demonstrate usage. When such efforts are detected, it can be costly for legitimate trademark owners to dispute such filings and expunge them. The provision also creates a statutory presumption of irreparable harm in a dispute over whether an injunction is appropriate in cases of trademark infringement. CBO estimates implementing the Trademark Modernization Act would change spending subject to appropriation by an insignificant amount over the 2021-2025 period.