Tuesday, October 24, 2017

It's MY Work, MY Copyright!

Many artists (writers, musicians, illustrators, songwriters, etc.) who have their copyrights infringed can't fight back- the cost of litigation will bankrupt them, possibly ruining them financially for the rest of their lives. I have seen it happen, I know someone whose work was stolen and she could never recoup.

In early October, a group of congressional representatives consisting of:

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D, NY)
Rep.Tom Marino (R, PA)
Rep. Doug Collins (R, GA)
Rep. Lamar Smith (R, TX)
Rep. Judy Chu (D, CA)
Rep. Ted Lieu (D, A)

sought to address this gross injustice.

According to The Authors Guild in their newsletter of October 18, 2017, Reps. Jeffries and Marino introduced the Revised Small Copyright Claims Bill, in which:

     "The legislation would give authors a much-needed tool to combat copyright infringement without having to go to federal court- an extremely expensive proposition for even the most straightforward copyright cases, and one that few authors can afford. If the bill is passed, individual creators and other small copyright owners will have the ability to enforce their rights without hiring a lawyer or travelling to federal court. This should effectively place copyright remedies for the first time within the grasp of an entire class of creators who otherwise could not afford to avail themselves of the legal system."

Anyone who's had to hire a lawyer for any reason knows how prohibitively expensive even a single consultation can be. To fight against an artistic thief who has a stranglehold on your work, never mind against the resources of a large corporation, under current judicial and regulative conditions, is all but impossible. This situation needed to be addressed- and should have been decades ago.

Known as the CASE Act (the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2017), this bill is an updated version of a preceding bill, but that bill did not make it to the Congressional floor before the session expired.

The Authors Guild support, along with input from "public hearings, written commentary from authors, industry groups, publishers, technology companies, scholars and other stakeholders" helped shape both the early and current drafts of the bill. Conditions and provisions of the legislation include:

1- any tribunal is voluntary.
2- engaging in a tribunal does not affect either party's right to a jury trial.
3- the Copyright Office must expedite registration certificates; such certificates being a prerequisite to enter a tribunal.
4- a provision that allows the copyright holder to request a subpoena which could compel an Internet service provider to disclose the identity of the person/user accused of the infringement.

The last provision, says the Guild, is an especial boon in the fight against Internet piracy.

Mary Rasenburger, executive of the Authors Guild, thanked the bill's creators; "Their persistence on behalf of this nation's creators is a testament both to the importance of the creative community and to their recognition of that importance," and for "hearing the concerns of the nation's authors, photographers, songwriters, and other creators and taking action."

In addition to the desperately needed and long overdue legal remedy, Rasenburger concluded that "Congress, by passing the CASE Act, would demonstrate its recognition that individual creators and small copyright owners are the backbone of the creative economy" which is something we creators already knew.

In order to give the bill a boost towards passage, write, call, or email your congressional representatives and express not only support for the CASE Act, but demand they actively push to have it passed. This bill benefits the true owners of copyrighted materials- so do it today!