A Future for Small Copyright Claims?

The U.S. Copyright Office is studying how the current legal system hinders or prevents copyright owners from pursuing low-dollar copyright infringement claims with an eye to reducing existing barriers to litigaton.

While the Act offers the possibility of statutory damages and attorney fees, these benefits are not available in all cases and parties cannot recover them until after the copyright owner has engaged in a potentially long court battle that requires up front costs.

The Copyright Office has been asked by Congress to study the obstacles facing small copyright claims disputes, as well as possible alternatives. Specifically, the Office is to undertake a study to: (1) assess the extent to which authors and other copyright owners are effectively prevented from seeking relief from infringements due to constraints in the current system; and (2) furnish specific recommendations, as appropriate, for changes in administrative, regulatory and statutory authority that will improve the adjudication of small copyright claims and thereby enable all copyright owners to more fully realize the promise of exclusive rights enshrined in our Constitution. The initial notice of inquiry seeks comment on how copyright owners have handled small copyright claims and the obstacles they have encountered, as well as potential alternatives to the current legal system that could better accommodate such claims.

Francis Hamit, who sent along the link, comments:

Not that I’m bragging or anything, but I believe that I was the first to suggest this with my essay in the September/October 2006 issue of the Columbia Journalism Review entitled “Stop Thief”.

This is the link to the full Notice of Inquiry [PDF file].