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February 1, 2024 | CopyrightEntertainment

The CASE Act – A Small-Claim Alternative to Protect Your Copyright

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Author(s)
Ru Hochen

Associate Attorney

Ashley Sohn

Paralegal

The internet has ushered in an era where copyright infringement is more prevalent than ever.   Traditionally, pursuing copyright infringement claims required navigating the complexities of federal court, deterring many small copyright owners due to the associated time and costs.  To address this issue, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act has been enacted to offer a more affordable, streamlined alternative to protect copyrights.

What is the CASE Act?

As the name suggests, the CASE Act establishes a small claims court-type system, known as the Copyright Claims Board (CCB), for copyright owners to seek damages under $30,000 for copyright violations.

The CASE Act allows relevant documents to be submitted without the need for in-person court appearances.  The limited discovery process also reduces time and expenses involved, which may benefit all parties.

What Claims Can be Brought under the CASE Act?

The CCB consists of three officers who collectively hear claims as a tribunal.  Generally, only three types of small copyright claims may be brought to the CCB.  These include: (1) copyright infringement claims filed by any copyright holder, (2) declarations of non-infringement brought by users, and (3) misrepresentation claims related to takedown notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Remedies Under the CASE Act

The CASE Act offers monetary damages as a remedy.  Parties can choose to recover either statutory damages (within specific ranges set by the Copyright Act) or actual damages and profits (based on the actual harm and the profits made from the infringement).

The maximum recoverable amount is $30,000 in total damages, and any statutory damages are limited to $15,000 per work infringed.  This excludes attorney fees and costs, which may be awarded up to $5,000 if a claim or counterclaim is found to be in bad faith.

Is it Required to Have a Copyright Registration Before Bringing a Claim?

No.  However, the copyright owner must at least have submitted a copyright application.  To bring a claim with the CCB, a party must have either a registration from the Copyright Office or a pending application to register the work(s).  If the copyright application gets rejected later, the CCB will dismiss the claim without prejudice, allowing the party to file it in federal court.

In contrast, in federal lawsuits, a copyright owner typically needs to have a registration from the Copyright Office before bringing a case to court.

Limitations of the CASE Act

  • Voluntary Option. The CCB is a voluntary option in which both parties must agree to participate.  In cases where one party opts out, a federal court lawsuit or alternative dispute resolution methods can still be pursued.
  • Limited Damages. Damages granted by the CCB are capped at $30,000, unlike federal court where there is no upper limit on actual damages and profits, with statutory damages up to $150,000 per infringed work.
  • No Injunction. Relief available under the CASE Act is primarily monetary.  The CCB cannot issue an order (called an “injunction” in court) to force an infringer to stop further wrongful activities.  Copyright owners will need to resort to federal court if they want to halt further infringements.
  • Limited Reconsideration Options. Once a decision is rendered by the CCB, avenues for reconsideration are limited, with challenges in federal court reserved for specific circumstances like fraud or misconduct.

Conclusion

The CASE Act opens doors for smaller or self-published content creators to seek relief previously out of reach.  Nonetheless, careful evaluation of individual circumstances is crucial to determine whether the CASE Act offers the most suitable path.  Speak to a member of our team today if you are considering pursuing a copyright infringement claim.

 

 

Photo by Bibi Pace on Unsplash
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