Big Step, Small Claims, the Little Guy

It’s tough for large copyright holders — motion picture studios, major recording labels, big publishing houses — to protect their intellectual property from being infringed. (Theft of U.S. IP costs our economy between $225 billion and $600 billion a year.) For small creators, such as your average photographers, songwriters and graphic artists, the odds of getting justice against infringers are even longer.


Legislation is moving, though, that would set up a small-claims process in the Copyright Office. The Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act would give small creators a way to seek to recoup damages from copyright infringers. It’s a fair, expedited, voluntary approach that aligns with the relatively small damages involved while giving creators their day in “court.”


The Senate Judiciary Committee has favorably reported out the CASE Act, S. 1273, sponsored by GOP Sen. John Kennedy (La.) and 14 bipartisan cosponsors (including the chairman and the ranking member of the IP Subcommittee).


Its House companion, H.R. 2426, led by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), boasts 54 bipartisan cosponsors, including the chairman and ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee and the chairwoman and ranking Republican of the House Small Business Committee.


Small creators really need this legislation. Federal court isn’t a realistic option in most instances of copyright infringement of small creations. Three-fourths of the time, the infringement’s value doesn't exceed $3,000. Attorneys typically can’t afford to take a copyright case worth less than $30,000. That’s no solace to, say, the mom-and-pop photographer who earns around $34,000. So, a small-claims alternative would help balance the table.


If you can’t enforce your property rights, then you effectively don’t have property rights. Small creators have known all too well the truth of this distressing fact. Conservatives for Property Rights supports efforts such as the CASE Act to strengthen small-business and independent creators’ meaningful IP rights, just as copyright owners of major, high-value works deserve the ability to get justice against copyright infringers.

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