Thursday 12 January 2012

Change coming to US copyright law?

Balloon Dog creator Jeff Koons is well known for his
copyright litigation - but he may get company in court 
Artinfo reported this week that there are possible changes on the American horizon to the way US copyright claims are conducted. If put into action, these changes could make it considerably easier for artists to claim copyright infringement of their works.

Currently, US copyright claims have to go through the federal district courts (which have exclusive jurisdiction over copyright cases) whatever the value of the claim. The reasoning behind this is that as copyright law is federal law, it's only the federal courts which have the necessary experience to deal with these claims - plus, use of only federal courts will ensure consistency in dealing with copyright cases.

Very sensible, but the (rather large) down side is that copyright cases for claims valued at under US$1m require on average US$350,000 in expenses, according to the Federal Register (which also helpfully points out that 'lawyers charge hundreds of dollars per hour'). So, your average penniless artist naturally isn't queuing up to file their claim forms, no matter how good their case may be. 

Congress has therefore asked the US Copyright Office to look into what problems are faced by those who want to bring small copyright claims to court, how far such difficulties are caused by the way the current copyright system is set up, and what can be done to solve them.

The Copyright Office is currently inviting comments on the subject which can be given via an online form. The consultation is open until 16 January 2012.

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