Copyright Small Claims Court Bill HR 3945 May Create Copyright Trolling On Steroids

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Congress is currently considering passage of a Bill, H.R.3945, known as the “Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2017” or “CASE Act of 2017”. From what I can see, HR 3945 is a bad bill and one you must fight to have amended or eliminated.

In my letter to the House Judiciary Committee today, which has been referred the Bill, I describe my concerns and several recommendations. Among other concerns, I believe this new “Small Claims” Copyright forum may lead to copyright trolling on steroids.

I Wrote a Letter to the US House Judiciary Committee About My Concerns on HR 3945

Antonelli Law Letter to House Judiciary Cmt re HB 3945 Small Cl

 

In Brief, My Concerns About HR 3945 Are:

First, the process will be an administrative one decided on by appointees rather than judges.

Second, the process will become very familiar to Hollywood entities who will have a very well-oiled machine to push through the small claims copyright infringement prosecution process. What if you are not a Hollywood-connected entity and you just received a notice from the Copyright Office? Can you afford a lawyer? If not, good luck getting everything right and not defaulting. The penalty? Up to $15,000 for just one downloaded movie.

Third, the Defendants, rather than copyright plaintiffs, will have to pay the $400 federal court filing fees and service of process costs to exercise their right to “opt out” of the Small Claims Copyright forum in the Copyright Office. This cost-shift turnaround flips the usual burden of plaintiffs of having to pay the federal court filing fee and service of process costs themselves.

One good part of the Bill is that it appears that if you are a defendant and you lose, you will not have to pay the plaintiff copyright holder’s attorneys fees in addition to the statutory damage award which may be as high as $15,000 per download (proven copyright infringement). However, I am more concerned that this process as currently written (probably by Hollywood entities and their lawyers) in the Bill will simply encourage defendants to pay settlement demands rather than try to defend themselves by learning all of the new rules, or pay for a lawyer in this new administrative law process. And this will in turn prime the pump on a new “torrent” of settlement demands (though dunning letters/speculative invoicing) that people will be forced to pay rather than deal with a new DC bureaucracy.

Finally, did I mention that the cases will be decided by appointees rather than federal judges?

Contact Your US Representative With Your Concerns About HR 3945

I encourage you to read H.R.3945 and then contact your US Representative and US Senator with any concerns you have. Call (202) 224-3121 for the U.S. House switchboard operator and ask for your representative, or click here for Find Your Representative. And if you think my concerns are unfounded, let me know that too. Email me at Jeffrey@Antonelli-Law.com.

PS. After writing this post, I learned the EFF has written about the Small Claims bill, too. Thank you, EFF.

 

 

 

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