|Not only does legislation take a long time to gestate, so often we don’t even know it happened unless and until someone reads a thousand or pages of fine print in seemingly unrelated legislation. You may have heard that the United States Congress passed $900 billion coronavirus relief and stimulus spending package and a $1.4 trillion package to keep the government running through September 2021. Where else would you expect to find the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act (CASE)?|
The concept of a small claims resolution process for copyright infringement has been under consideration and subject to negotiations for 14 years. After all, most of the time when copyrights are infringed, the damages are relatively small, and it is difficult to find someone to prosecute the claim in Federal Court, because the cost of litigation is disproportionate to the amount of the claim. The Act essentially creates a small claims process that makes it easier for photographers, designers, songwriters, and other creative folks to protect their work against copyright infringement.
The Act creates a Copyright Claims Board within the Copyright Office that will have the authority to adjudicate copyright infringement claims with damages up to $30,000 unless the defendant receives notice and opts out. The Board may issue monetary awards based on actual or statutory damages. The parties bear their own attorneys’ fees and costs except where there is bad faith misconduct.
Once the matter is adjudicated by the Board, it cannot be relitigated in court of at the Board. The only challenges available are if (1) the decision was a result of fraud, corruption, or other misconduct; (2) the Board exceeded its authority or failed to render a final determination; or (3) in a default ruling or failure to prosecute, the default or failure was excusable. These challenges would be presented in Federal Court. The Act also allows the successful claimant to engage the Federal Court to enforce collection of an award within one year.
You can read the full text of the Act here.
H.R.2426 – CASE Act of 2019
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There are several lessons to be learned from this idea submission and breach of contract case, where the plaintiff contends that his idea was misappropriated by James Cameron for the film Avatar, among which are the proof that one must have demonstrated in order to claim a similarity between the alleged infringing work and one’s own idea, and the questions of timing. An interesting analysis can be found here: http://www.loeb.com/publications-ipentertainmentcaselawupdates-20160325-rydervlightstormentertainmentincetal.
The unpublished opinion of the court can be found here: https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=15675251615603331785&hl=en&as_sdt=6&as_vis=1&oi=scholarr