If you have been a photographer for any length of time now the chances are that at some point a person or business has used an image of yours without permission. You would also know, getting any sort of payment from them after the fact and collecting any compensation through a copyright case is as unlikely as it is expensive. Thankfully the US Congress is looking to remedy that – at least partially.
The Copyright Alternative in Small Claims Enforcement Act of 2017 (CASE), a bill being put forward by a bipartisan group of representatives, looks to provide artist, photographers, and anyone else with copyright an easier and more affordable alternative to the federal court’s system. This new alternative would be called the Copyright Claims Board, and it would be overseen by the Copyright Office.
This proposed CCB board would put a copyright claim in front of a panel of three copyright claims officers, who would take a look at the case and would pass a judgment with a maximum cap of $30,000 in damages. Additionally, neither party in the case would have to appear in person, nor would a lawyer be required – so you could represent yourself, so to speak. For small single person photography outfits, like many of us are, this would be a much more affordable and realistic avenue towards effectively going after copyright infringers who have used your work without your permission.
As we all know, Congress isn’t the fastest moving beast, so there is no timeline on when this bill could be voted on or implemented if it were passed. But this should be a breath of fresh air for anyone who has had to deal with the dilemma of weighing the idea of suing or letting an infringer get off scot-free.
However, there may be one wrinkle in this plan – according to the release, participation in the CCB hearing is voluntary. So potentially, if we are understanding this correctly, the person or company that you are going after could decline to participate in the CCB. It’s not clear what would happen in this case, but our immediate guess would be that it could mean you end up having to sue them in federal court anyway.
Regardless, the idea here is a good one that puts more copyright enforcement power back into the hands of creatives. Let’s see how this ends up.