Cross-posted from The Hill
[by David Newhoff]
If the backbone of the American economy is the entrepreneur, then surely the millions of creative professionals, living in just about every community in the country, must be part of that story. It’s a world I know well. More than half my friends and colleagues are middle-class photographers, designers, graphic artists, filmmakers, writers, composers, and journalists. They produce works comprising a mix of independent projects made available through sale or license, and works-made-for-hire under contract. But for the past two decades, this class of workers has seen the foundation of their livelihoods eroded by forces beyond their control. That foundation is copyright.
When I first began advocating for copyright owners six years ago, many of the independent creators I knew, or came to know, had reluctantly surrendered to the new normal—that chronic infringement of their work was just a cost of doing business (or not doing business) in the digital age. Most often, these entrepreneurs are concerned with unlicensed, commercial exploitation of their works, unreasonably depriving them of justly-earned revenue.
Today, Congress has the opportunity to help this group of professionals recover lost opportunities and lost earnings by passing the CASE Act (H.R. 3945), which will establish a small-claims copyright tribunal at the U.S. Copyright Office. This legislation, developed over more than a decade, not only provides a new, inexpensive, and voluntary alternative to federal court to address many common types of copyright claims, but it may also have a broadly restorative effect on some of the underlying causes of damage to creators’ rights overall.