New Report from U.S. Copyright Office Looks “Challenges in Resolving Small Copyright Claims in Current Legal System”
New from the Register of Copyrights, Maria Pallante. Full Text available here. Also embedded below.
Pallante Writes in a Letter to the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary:
The Report documents the challenges of resolving small copyright claims in the current legal system, and recommends the creation of a voluntary system of adjudication to be administered by the Copyright Office.
Pallante Goes on to Say:
As reflected in the details of the study, small claims issues are anything but small. On the contrary, they present a range of complex considerations, from constitutional constraints to procedural concerns to questions of what claims should be eligible for alternative treatment. While the conclusions in the Report are our own, we are grateful to those who participated in our public process. The Office conducted four days of public hearings in New York and Los Angeles. and received written comments from individual authors, industry associations, public interest groups, technology companies, publishers, and scholar.
Brief Summary of Recommendations by U.S. Copyright Office (as Found in Executive Summary of Report)
- Congress should create a centralized tribunal within the Copyright Office, which would administer proceedings through online and teleconferencing facilities without the requirement of personal appearances. The tribunal would be staffed by three adjudicators, two of whom would have significant experience in copyright law – together having represented or presided over the interests of both owners and users of copyrighted works – with the third to have a background in alternative dispute resolution.
- The tribunal would be a voluntary alternative to federal court. Its focus would be on small infringement cases valued at no more than $30,000 in damages. Copyright owners would be required to have registered their works or filed an application before bringing an action. They would be eligible to recover either actual or statutory damages up to the $30,000 cap, but statutory damages would be limited to $15,000 per work (or $7,500 for a work not registered by the normally applicable deadline for statutory damages).
- Claimants who initiated a proceeding would provide notice of the claim to responding parties, who would need to agree to the process, either through an opt-out mechanism or by affirmative written consent. Respondents would be permitted to assert all relevant defenses, including fair use, as well as limited counterclaims arising from the infringing conduct at issue. Certain DMCA-related matters relating to takedown notices, including claims of misrepresentation, could also be considered, and parties threatened with an infringement action could seek a declaration of noninfringement.
- Parties would provide written submissions and hearings would be conducted through telecommunications facilities. Proceedings would be streamlined, with limited discovery and no formal motion practice. A responding party’s agreement to cease infringing activity could be considered by the tribunal and reflected in its determination. The tribunal would retain the discretion to dismiss without prejudice any claim that it did not believe could fairly be adjudicated through the small claims process.
- Determinations of the small claims tribunal would be binding only with respect to the parties and claims at issue and would have no precedential effect. They would be subject to limited administrative review for error and could be challenged in federal district court for fraud, misconduct, or other improprieties. Final determinations could be filed in federal court, if necessary, to ensure their enforceability.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.