Copyright reform part of COVID-19 relief legislation

Copyright reform was tucked into the $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill signed into law by President Donald J. Trump. After more than a decade of negotiations, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act was finally signed into law, leading to the creation of a small claims process that makes it easier for photographers, designers, songwriters, and other creatives to protect their work against copyright infringement, according to the Professional Photographers of America (PPA), which helped spearhead the activity for more than a decade. The CASE Act was part of the omnibus bill that included more than $900 billion in coronavirus relief and stimulus spending.

“It is exciting to see what our organization and its members can do when we set our mind to something,” said Gregory Daniel, PPA President.

“This changes everything for small creators,” says David Trust, CEO, PPA. “The CASE Act is now law. It is a reality that is still sinking in for a lot of us. There will now be a small claims tribunal for small creators, and they will have the same protections afforded to every other American business. The playing field has finally been leveled.”

Before the signing of the CASE Act, the only option for a photographer or other creative whose work had been misused was to file a claim in Federal Court, was not viable for independent artists. The CASE Act will create a Small Claims Tribunal within the U.S. Copyright Office that will handle infringement cases and make it easier for creators to take action against misuse of their work.

According to the National Law Review, “The CASE Act creates a voluntary, quasi-judicial tribunal that would resolve copyright infringement claims outside of federal court where the rights owner seeks $30,000 or less in damages — $15,000 per work, $30,000 per matter, with each party to pay their own attorney fees.” The review notes a downside of the legislation could be “copyright trolls” looking to extract settlement dollars from unsophisticated users.

“I applaud my colleagues for passing this legislation so that independent artists can rely on copyright laws to protect their work,” said Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC). “The current system makes it difficult for them to recover damages in a cost-effective manner, and this bipartisan bill will provide a more efficient way for copyright owners to protect their intellectual property and ensure that content creators can be properly paid.

“This legislation establishes a venue where small creators can actually enforce their intellectual property rights and finally be appropriately paid for their work,” Senator Mazie K. Horono (D-HI) said. Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) added, “This is a key way to ensure Americans’ creative spirit is preserved and protected.”