Holding the copyright to written materials grants the owner the ability to protect their property in federal court. Traditionally, this meant pursuing an infringement lawsuit in a United States District Court. While this is still an option, the fact remains that pursuing these cases can be a lengthy and costly legal undertaking.
Thankfully, an alternative now exists in the form of the Copyright Small Claims Court. This provides another way for copyright holders to pursue justice against parties that have illegally used their material. Even so, there are limitations to this option and federal law limits when this option is available, and also limits the potential remedies that you may demand. A skilled copyright attorney could provide you with everything you need to know about the Copyright Small Claims Court.
The holders of copyright have the sole ability to publish or display those works for public consumption. To protect these rights, copyright holders always have the choice to file lawsuits in federal court.
However, Congress recognized that this option was unrealistic for many individuals, and there are many individuals or small companies that may lack the resources to pursue full litigation. As a result, Congress passed the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2020 (CASE Act). This established the Copyright Claims Board, also known as the Copyright Small Claims Court, under 17 United States Code § 1502. A lawyer from the Lomnitzer Law Firm could provide more information about whether your specific situation might make this a valid option.
The main limiting factor on whether a copyright case qualifies for Small Claims Court is the amount of damages that a copyright holder is seeking. Under federal law, these courts have jurisdiction over cases where claims do not exceed $30,000.
While this is an upper limit on the compensation, the courts also have the power to issue orders requiring an infringing party to stop all illegal activity. For this reason, Copyright Small Claims Court might be a valid option for any party seeking a quicker way to protect their intellectual property when their damages might not justify a full federal lawsuit.
As useful as Small Claims Copyright Court can be, it is important to recognize that participation in this process is entirely voluntary. This means that respondents to these allegations have the choice to demand that the case move forward in the traditional manner in a United States Federal Court.
If the respondent does not object to the small claims case moving forward, both parties will have the opportunity to present evidence in the hearings. These cases will rely mostly on written materials as evidence to shorten the overall process. In addition, respondents will have the same opportunity to argue that their use of the material was “fair use” as they would in a full trial. In short, a Copyright Small Claims Court serves much the same function as a full trial but may reach a resolution in a much shorter time.
Enforcing your intellectual copyright ownership through a traditional infringement lawsuit can be a long and costly process. Thankfully, a modern option exists in the form of a lawsuit in the Copyright Small Claims Court.
If both parties agree to have this court hear their case, it is possible that this choice can significantly shorten a copyright holder’s efforts to stop infringing activity. However, be aware that this court can never award compensation in excess of $30,000. If you believe the Copyright Small Claims Court is the preferable option for your situation, contact an IP litigation attorney from Lomnitzer Law for more information.