A copyright is supposed to protect the work of an author, but most authors can’t afford to file a claim in court, so what’s the point? A new bill aims to change the situation by establishing a tribunal for small copyright claims.
In the United States, copyright provides legal protection for original works of authorship, such as literary, dramatic, musical, and other types of creative works. In reality, authors “have rights without a remedy—in other words, no real rights at all,” according to the Authors Guild.
The guild supports the bill introduced by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) to help authors and copyright owners enforce their rights. Jeffries introduced the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act of 2016 in Congress on July 13. Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) co-sponsored the legislation also known as H.R. 5757.
Copyright Claims Board
Under the CASE Act, a Copyright Claims Board consisting of three copyright claims officers to be appointed by the Librarian of Congress and two copyright claims attorneys to be appointed by the Register of Copyrights will be established. Parties may file claims with the tribunal on a voluntary basis. Doing so will not interfere with their right to a jury trial.
The Authors Guild has advocated for the legislation since 2006, when members testified before the House Judiciary Committee about the need for such a law. The guild cited its survey revealing most authors don’t have access to the courts for many of their copyright infringement claims. The threat to copyright infringement has increased since then because of the growth of digital piracy combined with the courts’ reluctance to enforce digital rights of authors, according to the guild.
“Federal court litigation is unaffordable to most authors and other creators, and so they have been left with unenforceable rights. We look forward to continuing to work with Congress to ensure that the legislation creates a tribunal that is accessible, navigable, and fair to authors—without having to hire lawyers,” said Authors Guild Executive Director Mary Rasenberger.
Full disclosure: I’m a member of the Authors Guild.
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