Indies may benefit from CASE Act; most probably never heard of it

It’s happened to me and it may happen to you, regardless of the arts genre you work in. A few years ago, I did a lot of research on a piece of federal legislation. It took me hours to work my way through the obscure language, references to other bills, and other minutiae. I filed my article after a full day of work on it. A couple weeks later, I did a search, as I always do, to see if anyone else had written about the bill. Imagine my surprise when I saw my article, and photographs, copied and pasted word for word into someone else’s website. What happened next was infuriating.

I sent a takedown request to the only contact name I could find for the site. I received a rejection by email. It was a very snarky rejection.  In other words, I’d have to get an attorney to represent me if I wanted to do anything about the website stealing my work.

Now there is a bipartisan effort in Congress to actually do something to help indie artists. The bill is called the CASE Act. You may have never heard of it. Here’s a brief overview from the Authors Guild:

The CASE Act would create a streamlined, much less formal process than currently exists in federal court. The parties would not need to hire attorneys and all proceedings would be conducted remotely, drastically reducing the cost. A three-“judge” tribunal within the Copyright Office would hear small copyright cases, allowing damages of up to $15,000 per work and no more than $30,000 in total. The process would also be entirely optional for both parties.

The legislation is fair, balanced, and—importantly—passable. Interested parties have been working on the bill for several years and resolved issues raised by initial opponents about unintentional default judgments and trolls potentially abusing the tribunal. The bill discourages bad faith claims by imposing fees on bad actors and barring chronic offenders. It would also ensure fairness by stipulating that the three “judges” be appointed and removable by the Librarian of Congress, and requiring that two of the three have experience representing a diversity of copyright interests.

“The Authors Guild looks forward to working with both houses of Congress to see that a Copyright Small Claims Court is finally established,” said Rasenberger**. “Too many authors have been left without real remedies for too long.”

Personally speaking, I think this ACT would benefit indie artists and freelancers. It may not have helped me in the situation I described—the thief lived in another country.

**Rasenberger is executive director of the Authors Guild.

(Filed by Kay B. Day; source document Authors Guild Statement with additional remarks by IAS; July 11, 2019)

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