LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney Steve C. Vondran | Aug 4, 2019

Is the Copyright Small Claims Court a good idea? Attorney Steve® discusses the CASE ACT

There is a new law being debated in Washington D.C. This time it is about creating a copyright small claims court where photo, video, music, and other infringement cases can be brought seeking up to 30k in monetary damages. Some of my criticisms and concerns of this bill are the following:

  1. We already have federal courts where copyright rights holders can assert their legal rights. As long as their content is registered, they can seek legal fees and enforcement their rights (much like movie companies Like Strike 3 Holdings and Malibu Media are already doing). So is there really a need for a new tribunal out in Washington D.C.?

  2. How will they handle a flood of small claims cases in Washington? There is likely one three-judge panel but how on earth could they handle thousands and thousands of cases?

  3. Is there a right to appeal bad decisions to federal court?

  4. This small claims court would allow UN-REGISTERED digital and other content to be protected (is this good policy)?

  5. A Defendant can "opt-out" but what about defaults (can these be set aside)?

  6. What will be the guidelines for awarding damages? If "willful infringement" need not be shown, how are they going to calculate penalties for infringement (5-15k per infringement up to 30k max)?

  7. If no attorney fees are allowed, what good are defenses such as "fair use" and 512(f) misrepresentation defenses and counterclaims. It seems bad faith cases can be brought with little risk of an attorney fee backlash by the Defendant. Federal court as it stands can award a Defendant attorney fees if they are the prevailing party in a litigation.

  8. Will this boost copyright trolling leading to floodgate litigation? I think it probably would and just not sure if this is a step in the right direction.

  9. How will serial filers be stopped? On what grounds? What are the criteria? If a rights holder has valid small claims rights, why would a copyright claims board be able to cut off the number of lawsuits a Plaintiff can file?

These are some of my main concerns. My review of the bill did not clearly demonstrate how these issues would be addressed.

What do you think? Watch the video overview and let me know your thoughts. This is general legal information only and not legal advice.

  • Attorney Steve® -

Additional resources provided by the author

See the links below to learn a bit more about this proposed law. Some say it is designed to stop the spreading of MEMES (which some has said has helped elect and promote the popularity of President Trump). But, in many cases MEMES can be transformative and a "fair use" but fighting these issues in Small Claims Court may provide only burdens to a defendant and no chance of monetary gain if they are able to prove fair use defense applies.

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