Public Knowledge (PK), Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and Future of Music Coalition (FMC) commend the Copyright Office for inviting public comments in the matter of remedies for small copyright claims. Providing copyright owners with the ability to enforce small claims is important to ensure the effective functioning of the copyright system. Equally important is the ability of defendants to defend meritorious claims. While a suit in federal district court is expensive, it also provides various procedural safeguards that permit effective presentation of cases and protect the rights of defendants. These safeguards play an important role in copyright cases, which often raise complex issues. Even where a dispute involves small monetary amounts, it is likely to involve complex issues that touch on free expression, privacy, and competition policy.
Therefore, we endorse the Office’s intention to study the issue more carefully before making any recommendations. These comments are intended to assist that preliminary consideration by raising a few initial concerns. First, to the extent that an alternative system to a suit in federal district court is proposed, that alternative must ensure that it does not jeopardize procedural protections available to defendants. Second, the particular design of the alternative system should be informed by empirical evidence regarding the costs and benefits for all parties to the litigation, as well as the public who may be deprived of access to creative expression as a result of a court ruling.