NEW FEDERAL COPYRIGHT LAW: CASE ACT = small claims for copyright infringement.
On December 27, 2020, the long-awaited CASE Act was signed into law. It establishes a small claims court for copyright infringement claims under $30,000.
If your book, website, photograph, visual work or other creative project has been infringed, you can opt to bring an action before the “Copyright Claims Board” (“CCB”) and you can represent yourself without a lawyer. However, knowledge of copyright law and Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Evidence are still required. Claims cannot be filed until the Copyright Office creates the CCB and enact rules and regulations.
Here are the highlights of the CASE Act:
- You must have applied for or received a copyright registration for your book, photograph, website, etc.
- You pay a filing fee and include a statement of facts in your claim filed with the CCB.
- The CCB may accept your claim, deny your claim, or allow you to amend and resubmit your claim.
- If your claim is accepted, you must send a notice (that includes the correct information) to the infringer.
- The infringer can “opt out” of the and you must then take your claim to the Federal Court (the regular way of suing for copyright infringement).
- If the infringer does not opt out, he/she loses the opportunity to have the dispute decided by a court and waives the right to a jury trial.
- If the infringer does not opt out, the infringer may bring counterclaims against you.
- The CCB schedules proceedings, settlement, conferences, discovery, just like a regular court action. Proceedings are held by video conference – no travel to Washington D.C. is required.
- If the CCB finds that your copyright was infringed, you may recover actual or statutory damages.
- If your copyright was not registered at the time of the infringement, CCB can award statutory damages of up to $7,500 per infringement.
- If your copyright was registered at the time of infringement, CCB can award you statutory damages of up to $15,000 per infringement.
- The infringer can raise defenses and mitigating factors for CCB to consider when awarding damages.
- Total damages are limited to $30,000 not including legal fees.
- After the CCB renders its decision, either party can request reconsideration. If denied, the losing party can ask the Register of Copyrights to review the decision.
- The losing party has limited grounds to appeal the decision in Federal Court.
- The CCB may find that that an infringement claim was made in “bad faith” If so, it can award fees and costs of up to $5,000 to the other side.
The Copyright Office has until December 27, 2021 to establish the CCB and it is now enacting regulations to make the law effective. As soon as claims can be filed, I will post another notice here.