Archive for November 2011

23 Nov, 2011 | Posted by: st

Possible Copyright Infringement

Small Claims Alternative

The Copyright Office has been asked by Congress to study the obstacles which face small copyright claims disputes and whether there can be alternatives to provide real justice in such situations.

This is in response to the recognition that not all copyright owners have the same resources to bring a copyright infringement lawsuit in Federal Court to protect their interests given the fact that such litigation may require substantial time, money and effort.

This is particularly so where the infringement has caused a relatively small amount of economic damage to the copyright owner and where statutory damages and attorneys’ fees may not be available at all or cannot be recovered until after the copyright owner has engaged in a potentially long court battle that requires the copyright owner to advance the costs as they are incurred.

Accordingly the Copyright Office is now undertaking a study to:

1. Assess the extent to which authors and other copyright owners are effectively prevented from seeking relief in Federal Court from infringements due to the effective constraints in the current system; and

2. Furnish specific recommendations, as appropriate, for changes in administrative, regulatory, and statutory authority that will improve the adjudication of small copyright claims and thereby enable all copyright owners to more fully realize the promise of exclusive rights enshrined in our Constitution.

The initial Notice of Inquiry from the Copyright Office seeks comments from the general public and copyright owners on how copyright owners have

-- handled these small copyright claims in the past,
-- the obstacles they have encountered,
-- the benefits of using Federal District Courts to adjudicate these claims,
-- and any potential alternatives to the current legal system that could better accommodate these claims.
The Copyright Office expects, over the next two years, to seek additional comments, conduct roundtables or hearings and generally meet with those persons who have an interest.

The Notice of Inquiry is now available at, where you can find a submission form to submit comments.
The deadline for comments on this round is January 16, 2012.

I encourage all of you who have had experiences in copyright infringement claims of relatively small economic value to submit your comments in an attempt to try and fix the system.

This is certainly a welcome development for photographers and other copyright owners who have been faced with the inability to effectively pursue copyright infringements because of the cost of pursuing claims of relatively small amounts.

© Joel L. Hecker, 2011
Attorney Joel L. Hecker lectures and writes extensively on issues of concern to the photography industry. His office is located at Russo & Burke, 600 Third Ave, New York NY 10016. Phone: 1 212 557-9600. E-mail: HeckerEsq[at]aol[dot]com .