Infringing on the Little Guy: Hope for a "Small Claims" Copyright Court
Many people still don't realize that copyright does not need to be formally registered with the US Copyright Office in order to be protected by copyright law. That said, among the benefits to registration is the right to bring forth a suit for infringement, under which the rightsholder may be awarded legal fees and statutory damages.
"This is all well and good," you think, "For large publishers. But what about me, the independent publisher or author? Surely attorney's fees, time, and energy required to pursue such a claim would prove detrimental to my own bottom line. What then?"
Enter the CASE Act, introduced by Rep. Jeffries and Rep. Marino, which proposes the creation of a sort of copyright small claims tribunal (called the Copyright Claims Board) which would review claims of infringement and pass limited judgement on the cases presented. In essence, this review board would function in much of the same way as a suit brought forward in federal court, but from within the US Copyright Office itself.
The benefit? The Copyright Claims Board would hold its hearings with written submissions or electronic hearings, and the claimants would not necessarily need to hire legal counsel to pursue a case.
Although the legislation went no further in this year, the CASE Act's presentation this summer is a positive step toward helping the independent publisher and author a way to enforce their rights in copyrighted materials.
Here's hoping that this is just the beginning of forward progress in copyright law.