The Case Act of 2020 provides cost-effective means to protect copyrights. With the passage of the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2020 (the “CASE Act”), Congress has blessed the creation of an alternative forum for copyright infringement claims, the Copyright Claims Board (“CCB”) within the U.S. Copyright Office, in which claimants can seek to resolve certain copyright claims in a more expeditious and cost effective manner.
The CCB has authority to render decisions on copyright infringement claims, declaratory judgment claims, misrepresentation claims in connection with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notifications, and counterclaims for infringement or DMCA misrepresentations that arise under the same transaction, occurrence, or agreement at issue in the primary claim. However, the board has limited jurisdiction to hear matters with a maximum amount of damages in the aggregate of $30,000, excluding fees and costs. Moreover, the CCB does not have authority over claims or counterclaims previously decided or currently pending before another court, claims or counterclaims by or against a Federal or State governmental entity, and claims or counterclaims asserted against a non-United States resident individual or entity.
In direct contrast to federal court litigation, a claimant before the CCB is only required to have a pending application for copyright registration prior to initiating an action, but the CCB cannot make a determination on a claim over a pending application until after the Copyright Office has issued a registration and the other parties have had an opportunity to address the registration certificate. Subject to the $30,000 cap mentioned above, the CCB can award actual damages and profits under existing copyright law, while considering any mitigation efforts of the infringer. Prior to the CCB’s final determination, a claimant may elect to recover statutory damages provided by existing copyright law subject to the limitations that damages for timely registered works may not exceed $15,000 for each work, and damages for works not timely registered are limited to $7,500 for each work or a total of $15,000 in any one proceeding. In awarding statutory damages, the CCB is required to consider mitigation efforts of the infringer, but not willfulness.
The 2020 Protecting Lawful Streaming Act seeks to stop widespread unlawful streaming. The Protecting Lawful Streaming Act of 2020 was introduced on December 10, 2020 by Senator Thom Tillis, and ultimately added to the omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 that was signed into law on December 27, 2020. (Division Q, Title II, § 211). Prior to releasing the text of the bill, Senator Tillis received heavy pushback from tech companies and free speech advocates that were concerned that the intent of the bill was to target individual online streamers. However, the language of this new provision very clearly targets commercial or for-profit websites operating as “digital transmission services” engaged in wide-spread illicit streaming or piracy. The new law prohibits unauthorized digital streaming of copyrighted work when the streaming is done willfully or for the purpose of commercial gain, and the website is: (1)primarily designed for unauthorized streaming; (2) has no commercially significant purpose other than unauthorized streaming; or (3) is intentionally marketed to promote its use for unauthorized streaming.
Ordinary violations can amount to being fined and/or imprisonment for up to three years, while violations concerning works being prepared for commercial public performance allow for fines and/or imprisonment for up to five years if the violator knew or should’ve known that the work was being prepared for commercial public performance. Repeat offenders may be sentenced to prison for up to ten years for second and subsequent convictions under this section.