The Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act passed by a count of 410 to 6 in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, and now goes to the Senate for a final vote. The bill also has strong sponsorship and support in that chamber and is expected to pass. If and when that happens, it will provide another tool for creators who feel who feel their copyright has been infringed upon.
Essentially the CASE Act opens up a small claims court for copyright infringement. Cases are capped at $15,000 per claim and $30,000 total with $5,000 attorney fees, and would be decided by a 3 judge panel of experts from inside the Copyright Office.
This means that if a songwriter believes an infringement has occurred, the cost of making a claim would be a lot less than filing in Federal Court, where the costs are often prohibitive unless the infringer has a big hit.
There was fear that the low cost of filing might encourage copyright trolls, but experts feel that the fact that the claims are capped at a relatively low amount will prohibit that from occurring.
The Copyright Office has discretion over which cases to take and will not hear complex cases, instead referring those to Federal Court.
There is one catch though. While you don’t need to register your work with the Copyright Office to have a copyright, you do need to register it in order to file a claim. This is also the case for Federal litigation. It’s recommended that you register your work within 3 months of publication.
The CASE Act is not meant to replace Federal-level litigation, just add another another tool for curing copyright infringement. That said, it still has to pass the Senate, which has already voted it out of the Judiciary Committee. No word on when the next vote will take place yet.