Copyright Office Seeks Comments on Whether Current Legal System Hinders the Pursuit of Small Copyright Claims
The U.S. Copyright Office is studying whether the current legal system prevents copyright owners from pursuing claims involving the infringement of works of relatively small economic value. The Copyright Office seeks comments on the issue, which must be received by January 16, 2012.
Copyright litigation typically involves a significant investment of time and money. The cost of copyright litigation can be prohibitive for some copyright owners because, unlike the state court system, there is no equivalent “small claims” process in federal court. While plaintiffs can represent themselves in federal court, they often need a lawyer to assist them with the complicated procedural and substantive legal issues involved in litigating a copyright infringement claim. While the Copyright Act contains provisions for awards of attorney’s fees, costs, and statutory damages, such awards are not always available.
In 2006, the House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property held a hearing on the problems faced by owners of small copyright claims. See Remedies for Small Copyright Claims: Hearing Before the Subcomm. on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property of the H. Comm. on the Judiciary, 109th Cong. (2006). Subsequently, Rep. Lamar Smith, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, asked the Copyright Office to study the issue and to provide specific recommendations for changes that would “enable all copyright owners to more fully realize the promise of exclusive rights enshrined in our Constitution.” Notice at 66759. Accordingly, the Copyright Office has requested comments on the issue and suggestions for potential alternatives, including the benefits and risks of those alternatives.
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