On Thursday July 24th, Nancy E. Wolff testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet regarding the Subcommittee’s review of the Copyright Act. In particular, Nancy spoke on Congress’s upcoming decision to reconsider remedies for copyright infringement and the potential for setting up new processes to handle copyright claims. Nancy spoke on behalf of a number of visual arts trade associations, including PACA, Digital Media Licensing Association (“PACA”), American Society of Media Photographers (“ASMP”), National Press Photographers Association (“NPPA”), Graphic Artists Guild (“GAG”), North American Nature Photography Association (“NANPA”) and the Professional Photographers of America (“PPA”), detailing the current state of copyright remedies, and explaining the potential benefits of establishing a Copyright Small Claims Court.
Chairman Coble opened the session by explaining that the idea for a copyright small claims court has been present for a number of years and that the discussion before the Committee would greatly influence the upcoming discussion of creating an institution of that nature. Congressman Nadler then continued to note some of the issues revolving around copyright, and the associated damages and remedies which result from the infringement of copyrights. Congressman Nadler’s remarks touched on issues of statutory damages, the streaming of copyright, and whether there should be a distinction between the copying of a feature film and streaming the same work where the former is classified as a felony and the latter is a misdemeanor. Lastly, before Nancy and the panel offered their remarks, Congressman Conyers addressed the Committee, noting his hope that with the panel’s insight the remedies for Copyright infringement may be amended and brought into a new age which further protects content creators.
Joining Nancy on the panel was Mr. David Bower, Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division with the U.S. Department of Justice; Mr. Steven Tepp, President and CEO of Sentinel Worldwide; Mr. Matt Schruers, VP for Law and Policy, Computer & Communications Industry Association; and Mr. Sherwin Siy, VP of Legal Affairs, Public Knowledge. Each panelist was given the opportunity to speak for 5 minutes, followed by a round of questioning from the committee members.
Nancy’s remarks focused on the difficulty of copyright owners not only to register their works, but also to protect those works from infringement under the current system. Many copyright owners, especially small copyright owners, lack resources to defend infringements. Coupling that fact with the high financial burden of litigation has prevented or precluded many of those copyright owners from actually bringing suit based on a potential infringement. Nancy expressed that each of the groups she represented support the creation of a Copyright Small Claims Court to aid in the adjudication of such claims. Establishing such a court would create a forum where cost effective proceedings would be decided by a tribunal with knowledge of copyright law and which could take place without the parties needing legal representation. Nancy concluded by noting that the new court would be a further step towards creating a more suitable venue for resolving copyright issues for small copyright owners, copyright users, licensing agents, and content creators.