Individual creators increasingly struggle to protect their copyrights, especially in the digital age. It is already often difficult for many creators to make a living, and more often than not, they cannot afford to pay thousands in court and legal fees to bring a copyright infringement claim. With the passing of the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019 (the “CASE Act”) in December of 2020, Congress and the United States Copyright Office formed a federal small claims court for creators in such positions to be able to enforce their copyrights.
The CASE Act seeks to give small copyright owners a procedurally streamlined and economically feasible forum in which to bring their small copyright claims and avoid full-fledged federal litigation. But substantive complexities that the new legislation failed to address may very well continue to keep small copyright claimants out of court.
This note will first give background of the legislative history leading to the enactment of the CASE Act, as well as an overview of how the Copyright Claims Board (“CCB”) operates. Second, it will discuss the difficulties and deterrents for creators of modest means in enforcing their copyrights and the largely procedural ways in which the CASE Act aims to address those barriers. Third, it will point out substantive elements which the CASE Act overlooks—namely, that the decisions of the CCB will be binding to the parties to any particular claim and will have no precedential value for other proceedings in the copyright small claims court, nor within any other court of the United States. Finally, this note will contend that the features of this new copyright small claims court set the stage well for determinations of the CCB to hold precedential weight—or, in the alternative, for the future development of a specialized copyright court akin to the Federal Circuit. Such a narrowly focused court whose determinations are precedential would not only assist small claimants assert their rights against copyright infringement but would also go a long way toward reducing the daunting complexity of the United States’ body of copyright law.
Emma C. Johnson,
Making Small Claims Work for Copyright Law: Why the Decisions of an Unprecedented Judicial Authority Should Hold Precedential Weight,
31 U. MIA Bus. L. Rev.
Available at: https://repository.law.miami.edu/umblr/vol31/iss3/6