Copyright infringement cases are costly and time-consuming, but there is now an alternative for smaller claims – a new small claims tribunal for copyright matters involving less than $30,000. In December 2020, Congress passed the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2020 which directed the Copyright Office to establish the Copyright Claims Board (the “CCB”).
The CCB is currently scheduled to begin operations in Spring 2022. It will be an administrative court situated in the United States Copyright Office with three full-time judges. The CCB will have jurisdiction to hear certain civil copyright claims, including claims for copyright infringement, declarations of non-infringement, and claims for misrepresentation for a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice. Jurisdiction is limited to claims based on works for which a copyright has been registered or an application for registration of copyright has been filed before or simultaneously with filing a claim with the CCB.
The procedures for filing a claim with the CCB and pursuing or defending a claim once filed are streamlined with the goal of being efficient and easy to use:
- The CCB process is intended for litigants to represent themselves without having to incur the expense of hiring attorneys.
- Discovery will be limited and mostly paper-based.
- The CCB will not be required to follow the formal rules of evidence for many types of evidence.
- Monetary damages will be capped at $30,000 for actual damages and $15,000 for statutory damages.
- The CCB will be able to issue an order for one party to stop engaging in certain activities when both parties consent to the order.
- The CCB will be able to require bad faith parties to pay the other party’s reasonable costs and attorneys’ fees. Generally, the cap on costs and attorneys’ fees will be $5,000, but the limit will be lowered to $2,500 if the other party is not represented by an attorney.
Once a claim is filed with the CCB, and notice given to the other party, the other party may opt-out of the CCB proceeding. If the party chooses to opt-out, the claimant may still bring suit in federal court.