The U.S. Copyright Office is reviewing its process for disputing small copyright claims. The study may have a dramatic impact on how owners of creative works can pursue compensation for copyright infringement.

The current Copyright Act protects the authorship of all types of works, from short magazine articles to multi-million dollar movies. Though movie production companies and record labels have sufficient funds available to pursue copyright infringement claims, owners of smaller works often find it difficult to pursue their claims because the costs of litigation often negates or surpasses the amount of the claim award. Damages from small claims disputes can be as little as $750 or even $200 if the dispute involves an “innocent infringement.”

Now, Congress has asked the Copyright Office to look into the challenges of the small claims process and make recommendations on how to improve the process at the administrative, regulatory and statutory levels.

The Copyright Office recently closed the comment session for this study. Over 50 individuals and organizations weighed in on the small claims issue, including composers, authors, visual artists and the multitude of organizations that represent them. The Copyright Office will use the public’s input to shape its recommendations.

Ideally, this new effort to reform the small claims process will help protect intellectual property and guarantee that owners of copyrighted works will be able to pursue infringement claims and be awarded appropriate compensation when those rights are infringed upon. Hopefully, the U.S. Copyright Office will use the data it collects to make the small claims dispute process more accessible and equitable for copyright owners.

If you are the owner of a copyrighted piece of intellectual property and believe that your ideas have been used unlawfully by others, please contact an experienced copyright law attorney who can guide you through the small claims dispute process.