It's Time for a Copyright Small Claims Court

When legal battles about copyright infringement make the news, they tend to concern big stars. big hits, and big dollar amounts, from Robin Thicke vs. Marvin Gaye’s estate, to Led Zeppelin’s successful defense of their authorship of”Stairway to Heaven.” 

But what about the rest of us? It’s a simple truth that, in the United States, filing a lawsuit for copyright infringement is expensive. Even just sending an initial letter can cost thousands of dollars and a case with a quick settlement can still cost over $10,000.

Those charges rise quickly when a case takes years to wind through the courts. When photographer Daniel Morel won a $1.2 judgment after a 5-year legal battle against AFP and Getty Images, his law firm had racked up some $2.5 million in legal costsHowever, even though the jury had found AFP and Getty had willfully violated his copyright, the court refused to grant him attorneys fees. This left the law firm that worked with Morel with little hope of collecting on the more than 3,800 hours of work they had put into the case.

This is bad news for both plaintiffs, who often can’t afford to file a lawsuit at all, as well as defendants, who are regularly targeted for hefty damages to justify the expenses.  For many musicians and composers, this all means that legal recourse, even in clear cases of copyright infringement, may be out of reach.

However, a new bill submitted by Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) hopes to at least ease some of those costs. Dubbed the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act of 2016, it seeks to create a small claims court for copyright disputes.

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Copyright Hearing Recap: Music Licensing Pt. 2

by Juan Carlos Melendez-Torres, FMC Policy Intern

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet held its second hearing on music licensing on June 25, welcoming input from a variety of interest groups and organizations as a continuation of the ongoing reexamination of our country’s copyright system.  You can find our coverage of the prior hearing here

Nine witnesses testified before the committee, offering opinions that varied in focus but all highlighted major areas of potential reform. Witnesses for this hearing included singer/songwriter Rosanne Cash representing the Americana Music Association, Cary Sherman (CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, or RIAA), Charles Warfield on behalf of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), Darius Van Arman on behalf of the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), Ed Christian of the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC), Paul Williams as President of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Chris Harrison of Pandora, President of SoundExchange Michael Huppe, and David Frear, CFO of Sirius XM

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