They say you don’t want to know what’s in the sausage, but you do want to know what’s in the $900 billion COVID relief bill passed by Congress on Dec. 21, 2020. Buried in the 5,000-page document are a couple of potentially important intellectual property provisions.
First is the CASE Act, which establishes a small claims board within the Copyright Office allowing copyright holders to pursue copyright claims and collect awards of up to $30,000 for timely registered works. The new board will hear claims for copyright infringement, actions for a declaration of non-infringement, claims that a party knowingly sent false takedown notices, and related counterclaims. Participation is voluntary and defendants can opt out. By participating, the parties forego the right to be heard before a court and the right to a jury trial (except in very limited circumstances). Cases will be decided by lawyers with copyright and alternative dispute resolution experience. It is hoped that this new path for resolution will provide copyright holders with a realistic means to protect their works. Critics argue either that the opt out provision will limit its effectiveness, or that it will become a tool of copyright trolls to further harass the general internet public.
The other important provision included in the relief bill is the Felony Streaming Act, which targets commercial streaming and digital transmission services. Proprietors of sites that willfully stream unauthorized material for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain could be charged with a felony punishable by up 3-10 years in prison as well as levied fines. The law applies to sites that: are primarily designed to publicly perform unlicensed works, have no commercially significant purpose other than to do so, or that intentionally promote unlawful public performances. It is not intended to target individual users of such sites; however, in practice, it is not clear where the line between streaming services and its users (who may operate channels with hundreds of videos and millions of users) ends.
Taft’s Intellectual Property lawyers are actively monitoring these new laws and their impact on our clients and stand ready to advise and support our clients’ efforts to protect their intellectual property, as well as defend their freedom of expression.
Please visit our COVID-19 Toolkit for all of Taft’s updates on the coronavirus.