Small Claims Copyright ‘CASE Act’ Passes US House of Representatives

In News by Porter Anderson

Advocacy organizations for publishers, authors, and copyright applaud the 410-to-6 vote in the House for the long-promoted CASE Act.

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Pallante: ‘Tremendous Momentum’
The Association of American Publishers (AAP) has released a statement late today (October 22), applauding the US House of Representatives resounding passage of the CASE Act, as it’s known, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement act.

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, this is the legislation that, in the language of the Copyright Alliance, “creates a voluntary small claims board within the US Copyright Office that will provide copyright owners with an alternative to the expensive process of bringing copyright claims, including infringement and misrepresentation under 512(f), in federal court.

“This new board, called the Copyright Claims Board (CCB), would allow recovery in each case of up to US$30,000 in damages total, with a cap of US$15,000 in statutory damages per work infringed.”

As the AAP is pointing out, the CASE Act has moved from the Democratic Party-controlled House—and next will go to the Republican Party-controlled Senate–with a remarkable level of bipartisan support. This, at a moment in American history in which almost nothing gains the approval of Congress members on both sides of the aisle.

The act has passed in a House vote of 410 to 6, correctly characterized by the AAP as a landslide.

In today’s statement, AAP president and CEO Maria A. Pallante is quoted:

Maria A. Pallante

“We are thrilled by the House’s resounding vote in favor of the CASE Act today.

“This bill represents more than a decade of underlying work by bipartisan members of Congress, the Copyright Office, and a broad array of stakeholders, all deeply committed to modernizing copyright law and ensuring that the small claims process protects all participants.

“The bill continues to have tremendous momentum, and we hope that it will be swiftly passed by the Senate and signed into law by the president.”

The AAP recognizes the bipartisan team of Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY08) and Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA09) for having spearheaded the legislation, and it might be observed that the lightning rods both these men can be in their respective parties makes the synergy behind this bill all the more impressive. Jeffries is the chair of the House Democratic Caucus and Collins is the outspoken ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee.

In its statement, the AAP cheers the CASE Act on, writing, “Going into the Senate, the CASE Act enjoys an impressive range of support from major organizations on all sides of the political spectrum, including the US Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO, the American Conservative Union, the American Bar Association, among many others.

“The bill also has the support of a broad range of organizations that represent creative industries, individual creators, and small businesses in the arts.”

Guild: ‘Authors’ Ability To Earn Income’

One of those organizations from the creative industries, of course, is the 10,000-member US Authors Guild, the executive director of which, Mary Rasenberger, has championed the bill.

And for those who need to catch up with this element of the American copyright regime, the guild has a very useful Q&A with key points about the concept and intent of the CASE Act.

In the introduction to that Q&A by Rasenberger and guild general counsel Cheryl Davis, you can find the rationale for the act from the stance of working writers in the United States laid out this way:

Mary Rasenberger, left, and Cheryl Davis

“The Authors Guild has been actively advocating for a small copyright claims court since 2006, when we testified before the House Judiciary Committee about the need for such a venue.

“Copyright is the very foundation of the publishing economy and authors’ ability to earn income. It is so important to democracy that our founders put it in the Constitution. And yet, extremely few authors or other creators have the ability to enforce their copyrights. Federal civil litigation is the only means of doing so under the current law and it is far too expensive—at least US$400,000 or so, which is much greater than the value of most writers’ copyright claims and well beyond the means of most authors, for whom copyright is a right without a remedy.

“Hence the need for a small copyright claims court. The CASE Act will create such a tribunal in the Copyright Office, and there will be no need to hire a lawyer or travel to Washington DC. Defendants as well as claimants will all benefit from the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of this tribunal resolving copyright infringement claims.”

Alliance: Members ‘Could Not Be Bamboozled’

The Washington-based Copyright Alliance—an advocacy nonprofit for the promotion and preservation of the value of copyright—has also issued a statement today, hailing the House’s vote.

In that statement, the alliance’s CEO, Keith Kupferschmid, points out that there have been critics of the CASE Act, notably the Electronic Frontier Foundation, this bill would re-ignite the nationwide problem of copyright trolling, just as the federal courts are beginning to address this abusive practice.” (You can read more about the EFF’s objections in this letter from April 23 on the subject.

Kupferschmid, in his statement today, says in regards to such criticism:

Keith Kupferschmid

“Today’s vote by the House demonstrates not only the tremendous support for the bill but also the fact that members of Congress could not be bamboozled into believing the numerous falsehoods about the CASE Act that were proffered by those who philosophically oppose any copyright legislation that will help the creative community and who will use any means to achieve their illicit goals.

“There’s a long list of supporters in Congress that we want to thank for their unbridled support of the CASE Act and the creative community [including] … original co-sponsors of H.R. 2426, Representatives Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Martha Roby (R-AL), Judy Chu (D-CA), Ben Cline (R-VA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). And our appreciation extends to all co-sponsors of this critical legislation.

“We look forward to working with the Senate and other stakeholders as the CASE Act moves to the Senate floor and eventually to the oval office.”

More from Publishing Perspectives on copyright issues is here, more on the Association of American Publishers is here, and more from us on the Authors Guild is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.