Congress Passes the CASE Act: Creating a Small-Claims Tribunal for Copyright Disputes

The CASE Act creates an inexpensive forum for small copyright claims. In effect, a small claims court for copyright disputes.

Suing someone for copyright infringement can be incredibly expensive—easily costing tens of thousands of dollars. It’s so costly it discourages copyright owners from suing for relatively small copyright infringement claims. To help with this problem, Congress passed the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act or CASE Act for short. (H.R. 133, 116th Cong. (2020).)

The CASE Act creates an inexpensive forum for small copyright claims. In effect, a small claims court for copyright disputes. The new law establishes the Copyright Claims Board, a body within the U.S. Copyright Office, to decide copyright disputes. The board is authorized to hear copyright infringement claims, actions for declaration of noninfringement, claims that a party knowingly sent false Internet takedown notices, and related counterclaims.

Participation in board proceedings is voluntary. The parties may choose instead to have a claim or defense heard in court. If the parties agree to have their dispute heard by the board, they give up the right to be heard before a court and the right to a jury trial.

The board may issue monetary awards based on actual or statutory damages. Damages awarded by the board are capped at $30,000. The parties must pay their own attorneys' fees and costs, except where a party engages in bad faith misconduct, and such awards are limited to $5,000. The board's final determination prevents relitigating the claims in court or at the board, but parties may apply to a federal district court for review of the decision.

You’ll need to wait a while to bring a claim before the Copyright Claims Board. The Copyright Office needs to write regulations to implement the CASE Act, and the members of the Copyright Claims Board must be appointed. The CASE Act requires that the board be operational by December 21, 2021, unless the Copyright Office seeks a six-month delay, in which case the board won’t be in place until the end of June 2022.

You can find more information about the CASE Act at the Copyright Office website (www.copyright.gov).