So Somebody Stole Your Content. Now What?
Congress created a new copyright small claims court for enforcing copyright rights.
I've been creating and publishing content for close to 15 years, and my content has been stolen on occasion. It's frustrating and infuriating, but in the internet age when a simple copy and paste is all it takes to steal content, it's going to happen.
Keeping control of your content in the digital age can be a little like playing whack-a-mole. You solve one problem and a new one pops up.
When I do catch content thieves in action, I usually file a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notice with the webhost of the content thief, and the content is normally removed from the internet.
A DMCA takedown is fast and efficient, but there is no way to reclaim lost income with a DMCA takedown. It's just for taking down the stolen content.
But what if you have a bigger case and the content-stealing costs you money or another person is profiting from your work?
Until now, if you wanted to receive monetary damages for copyright infringement, you were faced with the time-consuming and expensive task of filing a federal lawsuit.
A new legal avenue has recently opened up that's meant to be more streamlined and easier to use than a traditional copy infringement lawsuit. It's called the Copyright Claims Board (CCB). The goal is to give creators an easier way to hold the people who steal their content accountable, but there's already some controversy about some of the way the CCB is set up.
How the Copyright Claims Board works
If you are a creator and someone swipes your YouTube video, Instagram images or website content, the Copyright Claims Board gives you an alternative to filing a suit in federal court and having your case decided by a jury or a judge.
It's a voluntary system, but there are a few caveats that you need to know about when it comes to it being "voluntary." More on that in a bit.
The maximum award you can get is $30,000. This is much smaller than the maximum federal award of $150,000 for statutory damages or more for actual damages.
One of the best things about the CCB is that all of the proceedings can be done remotely. That means that you don't have to travel to stand in front of a judge or a jury to have your case heard. The remote nature of the CCB is a huge advantage and can mean far less expense in travel.
The claims for your case are heard by a three-member tribunal. These experts have a high level of experience in copyright infringement claims. Once both parties agree to have their case heard, the decision of the panel is binding.
The reality is that suing for copyright infringement in the federal court system is cumbersome at best, so this new board might turn out to be a huge benefit to creators who are looking to protect their original works.
The CCB looks like it could be cost-efficient and prompt — something that a federal court rarely is. But there are a few potential downsides that you should also be aware of.
Potential pitfalls of the Copyright Claims Board
The biggest criticism of the CCB is that it is voluntary and a defendant can simply opt out if they don't want to have a case against them heard.
If you are served with a CCB claim, you can opt out within 60 days. If you opt out, the person filing the claim can take it to federal court if they want to, or they can drop it altogether.
However, if you miss the notice and you fail to opt out, then the CCB claim is binding and you are waiving your right to a jury trial. That means that if you get served with a CCB claim, you need to make sure you respond promptly with whatever decision that you're going to make.
There are also extremely limited appeals processes with the CCB. You can ask for a review or ask a federal court to vacate the CCB's ruling, but the rules for doing so are very tight.
You are essentially stuck with whatever the CCB decides as your new reality.
Deciding whether or not to use the CCB
The CCB is a legitimate and new alternative for solving smaller copyright claims, but it also has its disadvantages.
If you want to file a claim, it's a good idea to consult with a legal professional that is well versed in copyright law to decide what avenue is best for you to pursue.
If you are served with a claim, then you want to make sure that you get legal advice on whether to accept or deny right away. The clock is always ticking as far as the opt-out process goes.
Ultimately, whether or not to use the CBB for any copyright infringement that you may be facing depends on the circumstances of your situation.
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