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Hirono, Durbin, Kennedy, Tillis Bipartisan Bill to Defend Intellectual Property from Theft Heads to U.S. Senate Floor

Legislation cleared U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act, a bipartisan bill introduced by Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), John Kennedy (R-La.), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), unanimously passed the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and will now head to the U.S. Senate floor. The CASE Act establishes the Copyright Claims Board at the Copyright Office to make it easier and less expensive for independent creators, such as photographers, songwriters and graphic artists, to better defend their intellectual property from theft.

“In its current form, the copyright system leaves no practical way for many creators to protect their rights as copyright holders. Federal district court litigation is simply too expensive and too complex for small photographers, artists, and the like to pursue valid claims against copyright infringers. The result is a system where those who rely most on their copyrighted works for their livelihoods are forced to sit back and watch while others use those copyrighted works free of charge,” Senator Hirono said. “The CASE Act will go a long way toward fixing this situation. By creating the Copyright Claims Board, the CASE Act establishes a venue where small creators can actually enforce their intellectual property rights and finally bear the fruit of their work. I will continue working with my colleagues on this issue as we move this bill forward for passage through the full Senate.”

“Money and complexity of the court system should not be barriers for small business entrepreneurs and artists to sue copyright infringers, who are very obviously breaking the law,” Senator Kennedy said. “Louisiana’s rich culture and history are rooted in the successes of talented artists, musicians and creators. The CASE Act will ensure that Americans’ creative spirit is preserved and protected.” 

“Independent artists who rely on copyright laws to protect their work play an important role in our communities, but the current system makes it difficult for them to receive damages in a cost-effective manner,” Senator Tillis said. “I applaud the Judiciary Committee for passing this bipartisan bill that will provide a more efficient way for copyright holders to protect their intellectual property and ensure that our content creators can be properly paid when their work is used without authorization.”

“A copyright is not meaningful unless it is enforceable, and right now thousands of creators are effectively unable to enforce their rights when it comes to infringements costing a few hundred or a few thousand dollars,” Senator Durbin said. “Our bipartisan bill, supported by a wide variety of stakeholders, creates a voluntary, streamlined process to resolve small claims. We can help small businesses and entrepreneurs protect their hard work and I urge the full Senate to pass this bill.”

The CASE Act would create a small claims court – called the “Copyright Claims Board” or “CCB” – within the Copyright Office. The CCB would serve as an alternative forum for a copyright holder to bring an infringement claim, with damages being capped at $15,000 per work infringed and $30,000 total. The full text of the legislation is available here.

At present, federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over copyright claims. The American Intellectual Property Law Association estimates that the cost of litigating through the federal appeals process averages $350,000. As a result, most creators and small businesses cannot afford to enforce their rights, and infringements regularly go unchallenged leaving many creators disenfranchised.

In addition to Senators Hirono, Kennedy, Tillis, and Durbin, the CASE Act is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). U.S. Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and Doug Collins (R-Ga.) introduced the CASE Act in the House of Representatives.

Senator Hirono is also a cosponsor of the Support Technology and Research for Our Nation's Growth and Economic Resilience (STRONGER) Patents Act of 2019. The bill would revise current federal patent law to promote the interests of individual inventors rather than benefitting large companies, among other changes.