Washington, D.C. — House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today delivered the following statement during the Committee’s hearing on
the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2017 (H.R. 3945).
Chairman Goodlatte: Like all creators, copyright owners, large and small, deserve to be compensated for their efforts. Thanks to the growth of the Internet economy, a creator now has the ability to distribute their works worldwide. However, this also means that those who view intellectual property as something worth stealing also have a means to more easily distribute stolen works.
Small businesses make up the majority of American businesses, many of which are family owned. They could be farmers, restaurants, dry cleaners, or any number of other professions. Just like larger businesses, they face issues that need judicial resolution such as non-payment, breach of contract, and other issues that directly impact their bottom lines. Fortunately, a robust state court system exists to address business disputes.
Larger companies and small businesses use a variety of measures to reduce the chances of theft and non-payment, only turning to the courts when necessary. Litigation in America is expensive and is not for the faint of heart. There are even state small claims courts for smaller value claims. However, for most intellectual property disputes, only the federal court system can hear legal disputes and there is no equivalent small claims process.
This has led to one category of American creators frequently being on the losing end of intellectual property theft – small intellectual property creators.
Visual artists have identified the lack of such a small claims process as a major detriment to their ability to hold those who infringe their works accountable. During the last Congress, there were two separate bills to create a small claims system for low value copyright claims. I’m pleased that Congressman Jeffries has led the way this year on combined legislation and that he and his staff have worked tirelessly with interested parties to incorporate a number of major changes to the legislation in order to improve its effectiveness and limit the ability of bad actors to abuse it.
Earlier this year, the Ranking Member and I spoke about the importance of this issue for smaller creators and I’m glad to see that our colleagues have made so much progress. Today’s hearing will highlight all of this hard work and identify any potential remaining areas of concern.
The Committee’s goal, which I know is shared by Congressman Jeffries, is to implement an effective process for resolving small value copyright claims. Just like owners of physical property, American creators deserve a remedy when their intellectual property is used without the appropriate compensation.