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Chairman Nadler Statement for the Markup of H.R. 2426, the Copyright Alternatives in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019

Washington, September 10, 2019

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening remarks during a markup of H.R. 2426, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019: 

“H.R. 2426, the ‘Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019’ or the ‘CASE Act,’ would establish a voluntary small claims court within the Copyright Office to hear copyright suits seeking $30,000 or less in total damages.   

“This bipartisan legislation, introduced by our colleagues, the Gentleman from New York, Mr. Jeffries, and Ranking Member Collins, seeks to address an important problem.  Today, many small creators, especially visual artists, are unable to protect their rights because the cost of pursuing an infringement claim in federal court is far greater—as much as ten times or more—than the damages they could ever hope to receive.  And, few attorneys would take a case where such limited damages are at stake because they would not likely recoup their costs. 

“It is a fundamental principle of the American legal system that a right must have a remedy.  But if it costs $250,000 to recover a few thousand dollars from someone who has infringed your copyright, then what remedy do you really have?   

“The CASE Act would provide important protections for the many independent creators who are currently unable to protect their work in federal court.  It would establish a small claims board within the Copyright Office to resolve infringement claims seeking $30,000 or less in total damages, with claim officers appointed by the Librarian of Congress. 

“The proceedings are designed to be less expensive and much easier to navigate, even without an attorney, than federal court and they would enable parties to represent themselves or to seek pro bono assistance from law students.  The board would conduct its proceedings entirely by telephone and the internet and no one would need to travel to a hearing or a courthouse. 

“The bill caps damages at no more than $15,000 per work infringed, and no more than $30,000 total, and the board would work with the parties to settle their claims. 

“Importantly, the proceedings would be voluntary.  Plaintiffs can decide whether this is the proper forum to file their claim and defendants may opt out of the process if they prefer to have their case heard by a federal judge. 

“Mr. Jeffries has worked tirelessly to ensure that this legislation includes revisions and suggestions from Members of this Committee and many stakeholders.  The revisions include various heightened due process protections and provisions intended to reduce potential abuse of the system.  In that same vein, the revisions contained in the Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute that I will be offering shortly reflect some final, constructive suggestions from stakeholders.

“For far too long, it has been virtually impossible for small creators to vindicate their right to a just measure of damages from infringers who have used their work without permission.  In July of this year, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the CASE Act by a voice vote.  Today, it is this Committee’s responsibility to take an important step in helping independent photographers, filmmakers, graphic designers, and other creators in protecting their work. 

“I would like to thank Mr.  Jefferies and Ranking Member Collins for their outstanding leadership on the CASE Act.  I would also like to thank the Copyright Office, which conducted an exhaustive study on the issue and whose recommendations form the basis for the bill.  In addition, I appreciate the support of colleagues on both sides of the aisle,, including the Gentlelady from California, Ms. Chu, who has introduced similar legislation in previous Congresses, and who has been tireless in her work to protect creators’ rights.  I am proud to be a cosponsor of this important legislation and I urge my colleagues to support the bill.”

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