Copyright Office Proposes Small Claims Expedited Registration Procedures and FOIA Conforming Amendment

The U.S. Copyright Office has established a new expedited registration option, as directed by the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act, for a work at issue before the Copyright Claims Board (CCB). Additionally, as part of CASE Act implementation, the Office has amended its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regulations.

Small claims expedited registration enables a claimant or counterclaimant with a pending copyright registration application to seek expedited review of that application. A claimant or counterclaimant with a pending application may request small claims expedited registration by making a request and paying the requisite fee, but only after the CCB has issued an order holding the proceedings in abeyance due to the lack of a registration or after the proceeding has become active. If the CCB, in its discretion, at any time determines that a proceeding may not proceed because registration has not been issued, it shall issue an order holding the proceeding in abeyance until it is provided with the certificate of registration or the registration number. The CCB cannot issue a final determination in a dispute involving a work for which registration is still pending or has been denied.

Congress directed the Copyright Office to establish a process for small claims expedited registration to help facilitate the CASE Act’s goal of helping smaller-value copyright owners enforce their rights. Timely registration is a prerequisite to commencing copyright litigation for works of U.S. origin in federal courts. Small claims expedited registration reflects the reality that copyright owners who find federal litigation cost-prohibitive may also have chosen not to register their smaller-value works. Through the CCB, a claimant or counterclaimant may commence an action and then seek expedited registration before proceeding. Unlike the Copyright Office’s other expedited registration process—known as “special handling”—small claims expedited registration will only be available for works at issue before the CCB and will have a lower additional fee, in recognition of the objectives of the CASE Act.

In addition, the Copyright Office has adopted an amendment to its FOIA regulations to reflect that, as required by the CASE Act, only those CCB “determinations, records, and information” that are published on the Office’s website and that relate to a CCB final determination are subject to disclosure under FOIA.