Tomorrow, the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider S. 4632, the Online Content Policy Modernization Act, which would establish a small claims tribunal within the Copyright Office as an alternative to federal court for pursuing copyright claims. Authors Alliance has concerns with the provisions in the current draft.
As we’ve previously written, Authors Alliance supports reducing barriers to copyright enforcement for those with limited financial resources by providing a faster and cheaper avenue to remedies. Today, the high cost of litigation keeps many independent authors and other creators from enforcing their copyrights. A well-designed copyright small claims process could fix this but, unfortunately, the copyright small claims dispute provisions in S. 4632 invite abuse and pose a high likelihood of harm to authors as both claimants and respondents in the proposed tribunal.
To address problems with the current draft of S. 4632, we urge the Committee to:
- Limit statutory damages to cases where it is impossible or cost prohibitive to prove actual damages and develop principles to guide awards of statutory damages;
- Remove restrictions on the grounds for judicial review of the tribunal’s decisions;
- Include additional safeguards to deter copyright trolls and preserve the utility of the small claims tribunal for independent authors and creators;
- Require potential respondents to affirmatively opt-in to the small claims process; and
- Narrow the jurisdiction of the small claims tribunal.
Read more about these recommendations in our letter to the Committee.
Independent authors and creators should have access to a low cost way to enforce their copyrights and vindicate their right to use others’ copyrighted works in lawful ways. We urge the Committee to modify the bill to better serve the creators it is intended to benefit.