Small Claims Bill Moves Forward In Congress

Posted on 5/8/2019 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

The CASE Act (Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement) was first introduced in 2017, but the bill expired without being passed at the end of the last Congress, as is the normal process for all bills not passed. On May 1, 2019 the bill was re-introduced in both the House and the Senate.

The two bills are both named the “Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019.” The House bill (HR 2426) was introduced yesterday by Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Doug Collins (R-GA), and the Senate bill (S. 1273) was introduced today by John Kennedy (R-LA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).

The CASE Act creates a small claims tribunal operating under the U.S. Copyright Office which will provide a way for creators to recover damages from an infringement without going to Federal Court.



Damages would be capped at $30,000 per proceeding, although expectations are that most of the claims would be valued at much less. Small creators report that most infringements are valued at $3,000 or less. A Federal court action can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring to fruition.

What’s Next


While this is an important step, the bill is still a long way from becoming law. It must go before both the House and Senate. Amendments are possible. It must then be voted on by both houses. If the versions passed by each house differ than there must be a conference to clarify the differences. Once finally approved by the Senate it will need to go to the President for signing.



The process for making claim to the new tribunal is still unclear and will probably be fleshed out by the U.S. Copyright Office once the bill is approved.

Image creators need to continue to contact their Representatives and Senators asking them to quickly approve this bill.



Having the CASE Act enacted into law would finally provide individual creators with the tools they need to protect their creative works from those who use them without permission or compensation. Enacting the CASE Act would remedy a historic inequity of the copyright system and by giving visual creators the kinds of protections that enables them to continue to create works that impact all of society in a positive way.

“It’s hard to imagine a world that doesn’t protect small creators, but that is exactly what we have today,” says David Trust, CEO of Professional Photographers of America.  “Ironically, it is the same group of creators that can least afford to have their work stolen.”  Trust is referring to surveys that show many, or most, small creators earning just $35,000 a year on average.  “With the CASE Act, smaller creators would finally have an equal seat at the table of protections enjoyed for so long by other creators.”

“For ASMP members, congressional action on the CASE Act is not an abstract exercise in lawmaking,” says ASMP executive director Tom Kennedy. “Photographers we represent are small business owners who depend on licensing income from their photographs to stay solvent as they work long hours without the luxury of lots of staff to make their businesses work smoothly.  Yet, unfortunately on a weekly basis, our members experience multiple infringements that deprive them of the income so necessary for business success.”  That lack of income can be the different for making a mortgage payment or paying a school tuition.

The Graphic Artists Guild strongly supports the introduction of the The CASE Act, establishing a copyright small claims tribunal.  “Graphic artists – designers and illustrators – are caught in a zero-sum game when it comes to enforcing their copyrights”, says Rebecca Blake, Advocacy Liaison for the Graphic Artists Guild.  “Their work is routinely infringed and infringers, knowing that the artists often don’t have the means to take an infringement lawsuit to federal court, usually ignore their attempts to revolve the dispute. The CASE Act will provide an affordable, equitable means for graphic artists to enforce their copyright.”

“Copyright infringement is a pernicious problem for our members,” said Michael P. King, President of the National Press Photographers Association. “Visual journalism is incredibly valuable work that is regularly stolen and circulated on the Internet. Yet visual journalists currently face a long, expensive process to be compensated for the theft of their work. The manner in which infringement persists without a workable remedy is economically devastating for photographers, their clients and their employers. It is our hope that the balanced nature of the CASE Act provides a real solution for photographers and other authors.”

“We are so grateful that Congress is taking up the CASE Act,” says Cathy Aron, DMLA Executive Director.  “This legislation is a critical element of copyright reform as it offers the image licensing industry, and others, an alternative to expensive Federal litigation to resolve copyright claims in an affordable manner.  An effective copyright system is the bedrock of the  licensing community, and an ability to seek real remedies for the garden variety infringements  that are pervasive in an online environment, is essential to the licensing  industry.   We are delighted that all the hard work from many associations, people from congress, senators, and advocates is finally paying off.”


Copyright © 2019 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of www.selling-stock.com, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  

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