US Copyright Office Publishes Report on Copyright Small Claims

Small Claims Copyright Infringement

US Copyright Office

After two years of study, the U.S. Copyright Office released its report on copyright small claims. The report sets out the high costs and challenges of addressing copyright claims that have a relatively low economic value in the current court system. It also mentions the frustrations of alleged infringers who may be faced with high litigation costs when defending themselves. The report recommends an alternative voluntary system of adjudication within the Copyright Office.

Copyright Small Claims Report

Recommendations in the report include:

  • Congress should create a centralized tribunal within the Copyright Office. The tribunal would administer proceedings through online and teleconferencing facilities without the requirement of in-person appearances.  The tribunal would be staffed by three adjudicators. Two of the adjudicators would have significant copyright experience, and the third would have a background in alternative dispute resolution.
  • The tribunal would be a voluntary alternative to federal court.  Cases dealt with by the tribunal would be limited to those where the damages sought  was valued at no more than $30,000 in damages.
  • Alleged infringers/respondents would need to agree to this alternative dispute resolution. Respondents could assert all relevant defenses, including fair use. Parties threatened with an infringement action could seek a declaration of noninfringement.
  • Determinations of the tribunal would be binding only on the involved parties and claims at issue and would have no precedential effect.  Determinations would be subject to limited administrative review for error. They could be challenged in federal district court for fraud, misconduct, or other improprieties.  Final determinations could be filed in federal court to ensure their enforceability.

The report is available through the Copyright Office website (currently closed as of 2 October 2013); alternatively the report is available here.

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