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CASE Act Passes Congress: A BIG Win For Content Creators All Around

*This update was provided by our partner, Cosynd, the fastest and most affordable way to protect your copyrights.

The CASE Act Passes Congress, but why should you as a artist care?

Congress has passed the CASE Act (Copyright Alternative in Small–Claims Enforcement Act) as part of the recent COVID-19 relief bill. 

The CASE Act creates a voluntary small claims court within the U.S. Copyright Office (USCO) that will provide an easy, affordable, and accessible way for all copyright owners to file claims of infringement and other grievances.

CASE Act Passes Congress: A BIG Win For Content Creators All Around

The CASE Act Passes Congress – What Are The primary objectives:

  • Creating a Copyright Claims Board (CCB), comprised of three judges that will try cases digitally (copyright owners will not have to appear physically in person in a federal court).
  • Allowing creators to represent themselves (copyright owners do not need to hire an attorney).
  • Granting copyright owners the opportunity to recover up to $30,000 per case, with a cap of $15,000 in statutory damages per work infringed.

The passage is a huge win for individual creators and small businesses who have fought long and hard for a level playing field. 

By no means was the CASE Act an overnight success — Its passing was the culmination of years of Congressional deliberation and the research and expertise of the U.S. Copyright Office. 

The bill was initially introduced by Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Doug Collins (R-GA), and in the Senate by Senators John Kennedy (R-LA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).

The CASE Act addresses the ugly truth that copyright owners know all too well — Creators have rights, but they can’t afford to enforce them

Up until now, there was only one place where you could file and endure a copyright infringement lawsuit — in federal court, in person, with an average price tag of $200,000, according to a study conducted by the USCO. 

In court, creators could earn as little as $750 or as much as $150,000 per infringement — only if they had registered their work with the USCO. 

This created an inaccessible system for most creators that could not afford to enforce their rights, and an unbalanced one for other creators that would see most of their earnings go towards legal fees. Ironically, it was nearly impossible for creators to use the very system that was meant to help them. 

The small claims court established by the CASE Act creates a fair and equitable system that benefits all creators, regardless of their financial standing. 

It instantly reduces legal fees by holding digital hearings that do not require an attorney to be present. For creators, this means a more accommodating and affordable experience.

>>> Related Reading: Confused About Music Copyright? Get Up To Speed In 3 Minutes

In 2019, The Supreme Court ruled that registration with the USCO is required before you could file a lawsuit. This applies to both federal court and the small claims court created by the CASE Act too

The USCO could take a year to establish the actual small claims court system. Once it does, it’s important to note that you can only take full advantage of these courts, if you have registered with the USCO beforehand. 

To be clear, “registration” means that a copyright application was submitted to the USCO and an official decision was made about the application — either the registration was approved or denied. 

If an application was only filed but is still pending, that would not meet the standard to file for an infringement suit. Note: It can take 4-8 months to finish the entire process.

“The Copyright Office must approve or refuse your application before you can file a lawsuit for copyright infringement, except in cases involving a non-U.S. work. You may seek statutory damages (up to $150,000/wilful infringement) and attorneys’ fees provided that the infringement began after the effective date of registration.” – The U.S. Copyright Office

Creators relying on “poor man’s copyright” (mailing yourself a copy of your content) are not entitled to any of the protections given to creators that have registered, including the right to file a lawsuit.

It can be expensive to wait for infringement to happen before registering. In order to be eligible for the highest statutory damages, registration must take place before the infringement occurred

Financially, the earlier creators begin this process, the better off they are. While an expedited application option exists, it’s expensive, and maybe moot if the infringement has already occurred. 

An expedited registration costs $800 plus the application fee, and there is no guarantee that the registration will be approved. The USCO’s registration rules are nuanced. 

If you inadvertently fail to meet their specific standards or to respond to inquiries in time, your registration could be delayed for months or simply be denied without a refund. 

An example: if one song has a different set of co-writers than the rest of the album, it has to be registered with a separate application (Cosynd offers an application calculator to help creators assess how many applications they may need if they choose to register using Cosynd’s service.).

Critics debunked:

Critics of the CASE Act claim that the bill will empower copyright trolls to abuse the system by filing multiple lawsuits for a minimal fee. 

However, the writers of the CASE Act have drafted measures to prevent this by imposing fees on alleged trolls and barring them from filing suits for a certain period of time. 

Other critics point to the voluntary aspect of the small claims court — an accused infringer can opt out of the proceedings and simply not take part. 

However, alleged infringers that decline to participate would have the possibility of federal lawsuits looming over their heads. 

After weighing the federal fees, time, and the uncertainty of whether or not the copyright owner has the means to go the distance in federal court, there is a good argument for an alleged infringer to participate in the small claims court for a faster and cost-effective judgement.

Seamlessly register your work with the USCO:

Registering your copyrights sounds like a complicated process, but it doesn’t have to be. That’s why we partnered with Cosynd, the easiest and most affordable service to file your copyrights with the USCO. Cosynd will assist with the preparation, review, e-filing, and handling of correspondence with the USCO until you receive your certificates of registration.

To get started, head over to Cosynd

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Cosynd is the fastest and most affordable way for content creators to protect themselves and their life’s work. 

We’re the only solution that gives creators the ability to build, negotiate, and sign vital contracts that secure their copyrights, which we then register with the Copyright Office. 

We’re turning a long, expensive process into one that saves creators of video, music, visual art, and literature thousands in legal fees with just a few clicks. 

With solutions for both individuals and businesses alike, Cosynd is leveling the playing field and making basic copyright protection affordable and accessible to everyone. www.cosynd.com

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