The IFJ and its affiliate in the US strongly support the bill or CASE Act (H.R. 3945 and S. 1273), which would create a simplified “copyright small claims” procedure to allow creators to enforce their rights against infringement, without resorting to costly and time-consuming lawsuits. Typical costs of a Federal copyright lawsuit are over $100,000, which individual writers cannot afford.
The NWU warns however against the procedure’s optional nature. As such, infringers –individuals or companies - could use their right to have the complaint heard in a regular Federal court, effectively allowing them to “opt out” of complaints by individual writers.
The NWU says the proposed small claims procedure would be of greater use in complaints against small-time individual infringers than against large, deep-pocketed corporate infringers, including publisher infringers who continue to distribute contents after their licenses have expired, or use or purport to sublicense rights beyond the scope of their license or rights holdings. The NWU pointed out these problems, and the need for a small-claims process to be mandatory in order for it to be effective in these types of cases, in written submissions and testimony at hearings held by the U.S. Copyright Office
“The CASE Act doesn’t go nearly far enough to resolve the fundamental problem that writers have, in most cases, no effective and affordable means of redress for infringements of our rights”, said Larry Goldbetter, NWU President and IFJ Executive Committee Member. “But we support it as a step in the right direction because it will allow at least some individual creators – perhaps more often photographers and illustrators, whose work is so easily and often copied on the Web without permission – to collect some damages, particularly in cases of chronic but petty infringement”.
US authors and creators are also calling on Congress to repeal the Copyright Code’s § 411 and § 412, which require registration as a prerequisite for filing a copyright infringement lawsuit or obtaining statutory damages and attorneys’ fees (provisions which violate the Berne Convention); and to reform § 203 on the reversion of rights which presents too many procedural obstacles to authors - reversion of rights to a work’s creator should be automatic after a number of years without requiring notice, registration, or other formalities.
“US Copyright law reform is long overdue," added Anthony Bellanger, IFJ General Secretary. "But we need the right reform, one that protects authors and creators, not one that deepens the inequality gap in favor of big business and intermediaries."