Capitol Hill, 11:42 pm – With time running out on the 116th Congress, both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate approved a huge year-end omnibus bill that included more than $900 billion in coronavirus relief and stimulus spending, and another $1.4 trillion to run the government through next September. The bill is an attempt to meet a current crisis that appeared on the American landscape less than a year ago. At the same time, the bill pushed through a measure that could have a much more long-term effect on the health of hundreds of thousands of small creators.
Last night’s vote marked the end of a 14-year push to create a small claims process for America’s small creators. The 11th-hour passage of the CASE Act, which was included in the omnibus bill, ends an inequity in America’s copyright system that has lingered for generations. For the first time, high volume creators like photographers, illustrators, authors, songwriters, and designers will have equal footing at the table of America’s copyright protections.
“It feels almost surreal,” PPA’s CEO David Trust said after the vote was taken. “We’ve worked so long and so hard, with so many setbacks. It felt like we might never get to this point. This is a game-changer for small creators who are tired of being stolen from.”
PPA’s Chief Strategist Cindi Merifield spent the day coordinating PPA’s efforts between Capitol Hill and PPA Headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. “This victory will bring relief to hundreds of thousands of creators across the country. This was a hard-fought victory for small business—truly a David and Goliath battle where, fortunately, David won.”
Merifield points out that the CASE Act was assisted by several key champions on the Hill that worked tirelessly to help America’s small creators, including Senators John Kennedy (R-LA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Congressmen Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY-08), and Doug Collins (R-GA-09).
Under the current copyright system, a creator whose work has been misused has just one option to recover those damages—filing a Federal Court lawsuit. That process costs on average up to $400,000. The CASE Act creates a simplified process that does not require lawyers or a Federal Court suit. Under the new system, creators will simply file a claim under the U.S. Copyright Office.
“Fewer than 3 percent of professional photographers register their work with the Copyright Office,” said PPA President Gregory Daniel. “That’s because the system simply didn’t work for us. It is exciting to see what PPA can do when it sets its mind to something.”
Trust recalls that the road to the CASE Act was long and often lonely. Long before it was popular, PPA advocated alone on Capitol Hill, engaging both the House and Senate in meeting after meeting to educate members on the plight of small creators and to advocate for a small claims process. The early days produced much sympathy but little actual action. “Those were long, difficult days working on the Hill,” said Trust. “It seemed then like we would never get to where we are tonight.”
PPA and other organizations will now turn their attention to creating education about how to access the Small Claims Tribunal created by the CASE Act. Additional work to modernize the U.S. Copyright Offices processes is also a top priority now that the CASE Act has passed.
The bill will now go to the President to sign into law.