Report on the L.A. Hearing Regarding Small Copyright Claims

 

As previously reported, Congress asked the U.S. Copyright Office (“CO”) to investigate the handling of small copyright claims. As part of the process, the CO recently conducted hearings in New York and last week in Los Angeles.  Of note, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office also is looking into small clams for patent and trademark matters.

I was honored to be on each of the panels at the LA hearings. Jacqueline Charlesworth, Senior Counsel to Register of Copyrights, and Catherine Rowland, Senior Counsel for Policy and International Affairs for the CO, led the hearing. A variety of interested persons attended, including representatives from NPPA (Alicia Calzada), Independent Film and Television Alliance, the National Writers Union, California Lawyers for the Arts (Alma Robinson and Erin Kunze), Peermusic (an independent music producer), and APA (Michael Grecco).

The panel members discussed the issues related to the possible tribunal, including the nature of tribunal, voluntary versus mandatory participation, the location of the tribunal or tribunals, the claims, defenses, and damages that would be litigated in the tribunal and how. Constitutional challenges seem to be the biggest hurdle to establish such a tribunal. But, in sum, the panelists appeared to deem a one-day mini trial or small claims hearing (similar to state court small claims matters) to be viable options.

The panels were recorded and a transcript of the hearings will be available to the public. The CO will take under advisement the panelists’ suggestions and will produce a report in September 2013. More information about the process is available at www.copyright.gov/docs/smallclaims.

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Carolyn E. Wright

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