A small-claims court for copyright disputes is set to launch by the end of the year, opening the door to more cost-effective dispute resolution, but also some new headaches. Under the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act (“CASE Act”) a new Copyright Claims Board (“CBC”) will handle small copyright claims within the U.S.
For artists, photographers, and other creators who have legitimately been victimized by infringers, this entails an easier path to justice, however, on the other end of the spectrum, this may open the floodgates for more copyright “trolling” threats and lawsuits, particularly in situations of de minimis potentially infringing, innocent acts like the use of apparently free images found online, as we recently wrote about.
Key features of the CASE ACT:
- The work at issue (photograph, image, software, etc.) need not be previously registered at the US Copyright Office in order to be entitled to a remedy, though the cap is higher ($15,000) if it is.
- For works that were *not* timely registered, the plaintiff may file at the time the CBC dispute is initiated, but the claim is subject to a lower cap of $7,500.
- Parties will still have the right to take claims to regular federal court.
While more insights about this new enforcement option are expected this year, this development is another reminder of the benefits of timely copyright registration for creators and the dangers of using another owner’s copyrighted work without permission. In the last year, TMF has observed a huge uptick in threatening copyright demands (fueled by advances in image recognition technology combined with increased bullying) and has helped settle many such disputes.
Of course, for users of content, whether on a company website, social media, or other public presentation, the best way to avoid copyright litigation is to stick with images either owned by the company or clearly licensed for the relevant use. Beware of sites purporting to offer “free” images as there are often limitations on use, and, in some cases, it is suspected that the sites may be part of a coordinated trolling effort. When in doubt, please contact The Moskowitz Firm.