After 14 years of negotiations, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act (CASE) was signed into law by President Trump. The legislation was buried in the omnibus bill that includes $900 billion in coronavirus relief and stimulus spending, and another $1.4 trillion to run the government through September. This new law means that those who post copyrighted material without permission can face up to $30,000 in penalties.  

The Act essentially creates a small claims process that makes it easier for photographers, designers, songwriters, and other creatives to protect their work against copyright infringement. The new law creates a Copyright Claims Board within the Copyright Office that will have the authority to adjudicate copyright infringement claims unless the defendant receives notice and opts out. The Board may issue monetary awards based on actual or statutory damages. The parties bear their own attorneys’ fees and costs except where there is bad faith misconduct.

The Board’s final determination precludes relitigating the claims in court or at the Board. Parties may challenge a Board decision in federal district court only if (1) the decision was a result of fraud, corruption, or other misconduct; (2) the Board exceeded its authority or failed to render a final determination; or (3) in a default ruling or failure to prosecute, the default or failure was excusable.

The law was sponsored by Representative Hakeem Jeffries, a New York Democrat with 152 co-sponsors (107 Democrats and 45 Republicans in the House). But it is somewhat controversial and has been harshly criticized by the Electronic Frontier Foundation  which opines that only Big Tech Internet companies will have the resources to be able to keep on the “right” side of the law.  It also creates new ways for major studios and record labels to go after those who use their content without permission.

The Act includes recommendations set forth in the Copyright Offices Small Claims Report issued in 2013. That report mentioned that many artists could not afford the costs of obtaining counsel to bring a federal court lawsuit to protect their work.  

Read the full text of the act here