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The U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee passed the CASE Act [Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act] last night, which means that with the Senate version already passed out of the Senate Judiciary committee since July 19, the law is ready for a full vote by both chambers.
Industry sources say they are hopeful it will come to a full vote in both legislative arms before the October recess.
The legislation would create the Copyright Claims Board at the U.S. Copyright office, who would hear and rule on small claims cases of copyright infringement where damages would be capped at $15,000 per claim and $30,000 in total, which means that smaller independents can file claims without taking on the added expense of an attorney.
"The CASE Act is commonsense legislation that provides small creators, who have been victims of copyright theft, with affordable legal recourse," Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement. "I appreciate the…bipartisan support it has received from members across the Judiciary Committee. If the CASE Act is signed into law, it will create a more streamlined and significantly less costly means for photographers, songwriters and graphic designers to fight property theft and protect their livelihoods. I would encourage all of my colleagues in both the House and the Senate to support and pass the CASE Act."
Litigation in Federal Court can cost upwards of tens or hundreds of thousand of dollars, which, in effect, means that only big hit songwriters backed by large publishers have legal recourse. Consequently, this legislation was introduced to protect the rights of all songwriters and copyright creators, industry sources say.
"The establishment of the Copyright Claims Board is critical for the creative middle class who deserve to benefit from the fruits of their labor," said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. "Copyright enforcement is essential to ensure that these artists, writers, musicians and other creators are able to commercialize their creative work in order to earn a livelihood. The CASE Act will enable creators to enforce copyright protected content in a fair, timely and affordable manner. This legislation is a strong step in the right direction."
Under the bill, cases are to be decided by a three-judge panel of subject matter experts within the Copyright Office, who would adjudicate only straightforward cases of alleged copyright infringement. Moreover, the Copyright Office would monitor the process to ensure that it isn’t being used as a harassment tool, according to a House press release on the legislation.
"One of the key attributes of the CASE Act is that it forces both parties to carefully evaluate the merits of their claims and defenses and make a good faith determination of the reasonableness of their arguments," Collins continued in a statement. "Parties are very likely to reach a mutually agreeable resolution of the case because it will be heard by an impartial third-party who determines whether the claim has merit. If one side feels there is too much at stake, either party can simply opt out and seek relief in district court. Similarly, those falsely accused of infringement can simply opt out of the small claims proceeding. Participation would be completely optional."
Daryl P. Friedman, the Recording Academy’s chief industry government and member relations officer, acknowledged in a statement that the House Judiciary Committee’s passage brings music creators "one step closer to having a simpler and more cost-effective way to defend their original works against infringement. I urge both chambers to pass this legislation to eliminate the unfair advantage against creators that currently exists in copyright law and protect the viability of the music industry."
In addition, the "Recording Academy is pleased to see that as creators across the U.S. prepare for District Advocate day on October 2nd, lawmakers are working to ensure the viability of their profession by passing this important piece of legislation," the organization added in a statement.
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