Copyright owners seeking damages under $ 30,000 now have the option to settle their claims outside of federal court. The Law Enforcement of Copyright in Enforcement of Small Claims of 2019 (“CASE Act”), passed under the COVID-19 Bill of December 2020, created an alternative tribunal system for small claims that can rule on certain claims for copyright infringement.
The CASE Act revises the Copyright Act by establishing the Copyright Claims Board and a system that may prove to be a more efficient method of resolving copyright infringement claims. With the passage of the CASE Act, copyright owners can now choose to bring their claims through the Copyright Claims Board of the United States Copyright Office rather than through the federal judicial system. The Copyright Claims Board acts as a small claims tribunal, settling copyright infringement claims and providing limited damages in a single proceeding of no more than $ 15,000 per claim for a total of $ 30,000.
Participation in the Copyright Claims Board system is voluntary and defendants can still choose to settle their dispute in federal court. This option can be especially important for some defendants as parties who resolve their claims through the Copyright Claims Board have waived their right to legal process and formal claims practice.
The scope of the Copyright Claims Board is limited to claims under Section 106 or 512 (f), which means it can only hear certain claims of copyright infringement such as non-infringement claims, allegations that a party sent false acceptance notices, and related counterclaims and other claims within these sections. The Copyright Claims Board is made up of a three-person body that can conduct proceedings that include discoveries, hearings, and the award of damages and other facilitations. Similar to federal courts, the Copyright Claims Board must make written decisions that explain the factual and legal basis of the finding.
There are some interesting limitations within the CASE Act system. For example, although the Copyright Claims Board is located in Washington, DC, the Copyright Claims Board must follow the law in the federal jurisdiction that the lawsuit could have been brought in if it had been brought in federal court. Another reason is that decisions by the Copyright Claims Board do not prevail in any court, including the Copyright Claims Board itself. Additionally, the Copyright Claims Board’s decision is final and there is limited review of the decisions available. After submitting a full re-examination or re-examination request to the Copyright Claims Board and Register of Copyrights, the party can only contest the Copyright Claims Board’s decision within 90 days and under very limited circumstances.
The new CASE Act tribunal system for small claims should provide a cheaper and more efficient process for resolving claims for copyright infringement than before. However, only time will tell whether the defendants will consent to a lawsuit brought by the Copyright Claims Board.