Proposed Small Claims Copyright Act, Helpful or Hurtful to Artists?


The Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act of 2016, H.R. 5757, proposes the creation of a small claims board to adjudicate copyright claims of minimal monetary value, capping damages at $15,000 per infringement, and $30,000 per single action. Recently presented to the House of Representatives, the amendment would “establish an alternative dispute resolution program for copyright small claims.”

While the act may be helpful in that independent artists have greater access to defend themselves against infringers stealing their work, ultimately it may simply ease the obstacles of large content companies going after those same artists. Fortunately, while federal litigation is very expensive, the small claims board would be much more affordable for independent artist claiming infringement or defending themselves and unlike federal court, the small claims board will allow actions on an unregistered work. This may ultimately be detrimental to artists if they chose to no longer worry about registration and are therefore limited to lesser damages and no access to federal court.

Concerns aside, the Authors Guild is a huge supporter of the legislation, stating: “The legislation will finally provide authors with a means of enforcing their rights. Federal court litigation is not affordable to most authors and other creators, and so they have been left with unenforceable rights.”