Copyright Office Exploring Small Copyright Disputes

The U.S. Copyright Office held public hearings to explore small copyright disputes in New York City on November 15-16, 2012 and Los Angeles on November 26-27, 2012.

The Copyright Office has been asked by Congress to study the obstacles facing small copyright disputes involving small amounts, as well as possible alternatives to litigation. Congress’ concern is that copyright owners who suffer a small amount of damages due to copyright infringement may be dissuaded from filing a lawsuit because a potentially small award may not justify the potentially large expense of litigation.

Thus, Congress has instructed the Copyright Office to: 1) assess the extent to which authors and other copyright owners are prevented from seeking relief from infringements due to constraints in the current system; and (2) and recommend changes in administrative, regulatory and statutory authority that will improve the resolution of small copyright claims.

Given this mandate, the hearings asked for comment on how copyright owners have handled small copyright disputes and the obstacles they have encountered, as well as potential alternatives to the current legal system that could better accommodate such claims. Specific issues that were also addressed include possible forums and jurisdiction for small claims, constitutional issues, practice and procedures for small claims, and alternatives to litigation.  The results from the hearings should be out soon.

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