The U.S. Copyright Office has proposed a fast-track copyright registration option[1] for small claims to be brought before the Copyright Claims Board (CCB). Congress recently created the CCB under the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act[2] to address the challenges and costs of federal litigation. The CCB must be operational by December 27, 2021 unless an extension is sought by the Copyright Office. Copyright litigation requires a registration certificate before bringing suit. Congress recognized that many small claimants do not register their works.

The option to expedite registration would make the CCB even more accessible to small claimants. To be eligible for the fast-track option, the work being registered must be the subject of a claim or counterclaim before the CCB. This means that a claim could be submitted while an application for registration is still pending. The CCB would still require that the work be registered before it renders a decision, so claims involving pending applications would be held in abeyance for up to one year, and if registration is refused, the claim would be dismissed without prejudice.

Aside from owning a registration, the barriers to bringing and adjudicating (if the respondent does not timely opt out) an infringement matter before the CCB are low: filing fees are low, discovery is limited, formal motion practice is not permitted, the rules of evidence do not apply, CCB decisions and statements made during proceedings have limited preclusive effect, proceedings are completely remote, and recovery of attorney’s fees and costs is limited.

This fast-track option is different from the Office’s existing expedited copyright registration option for certain circumstances. Fast-tracking a copyright application would cost only an additional $50 per claim, instead of the Office’s current “special handling” additional fee of $800 (these handling fees are on top of the regular application filing fees paid to the Copyright Office). To be eligible, a CCB claimant must submit an application for expedited registration and the fee to the CCB, and the respondent must have either opted in or not timely opted out of the CCB claim. If approved, the Office would make a decision on registration within 10 days.

The Copyright Office is accepting comments on this proposed rulemaking until May 26, 2021.[3]

If you are interested in a fast-track option for trademarks, read our blog post from last summer detailing the USPTO’s new accelerated examination program for COVID-19 related trademarks and service marks.

[2] Read our December 23, 2020 blog post for more details on the Copyright Claims Board.