UK Kicks Off Small Claims Court For 'Small Scale' Copyright Claims

from the would-that-help? dept

It's no secret that one of the significant problems with copyright law today are the ridiculous statutory damages, set by Congress, which have absolutely no reasonable connection to the "harm" being done. The idea that you could owe $150,000 for sharing a single song should be horrific to just about everyone (though, of course, the maximalists always have crazy ways to justify such insane and punitive damages). However, over in the UK, one thing they're trying to tackle is changing the equation for "small scale" copyright disputes. Specifically, they've set up the equivalent of a small claims court for copyright issues, which makes the process much cheaper and faster.
"Small firms, whose intellectual property has been infringed, will have today a simpler and easier way to take their cases forward, by writing direct to the judge and setting out the issues," Business Minister Michael Fallon said in a statement. "Lower legal costs will make it easier for entrepreneurs to protect their creative ideas where they had previously struggled to access justice in what could often be an expensive progress. A smarter and cheaper process is good for business and helping businesses make the most of their intellectual property is good for the economy."
I question how effective this will be, but at least it is a different approach. If nothing else, it will be worthwhile for the sake of seeing how well (if at all) it works. I don't see how this really solves any of the big problems with massive damages. All it really does is make it easier for there to be more copyright lawsuits, though with limited benefits for those who file. It seems like the kind of system that's going to see a lot of attempted abuse. We already see so much abuse of the existing copyright system, so are we sure it's a good idea to make it even easier for some to file lawsuits -- even with the limited punishment?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Oct 4th, 2012 @ 3:27am

    o_O

    While it is nice they are trying something new... I expect to see this court flooded with porn and video game cases shortly.

     

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    Rikuo (profile), Oct 4th, 2012 @ 3:39am

    And how often will there be default judgements, since the cost of sending a legal representative to a small claims court to argue against a small claim can often be more expensive than the claim itself?

     

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      Alex Macfie (profile), Oct 4th, 2012 @ 4:22am

      No lawyers

      There are no lawyers in the British Small Claims Court. The parties represent themselves, and the judge asks the questions. The only costs involved are those of transporting oneself to the court, and of time taken off work.

       

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    Josef Anvil (profile), Oct 4th, 2012 @ 3:49am

    If its a crime then treat it like one

    Want to stop the companies from filing lawsuits? They call infringement theft and say its a huge crime, it did make a splash on Crime Inc.

    Give them what they want. Catch the infringers and impose a fine or jail time. The companies will see no gain other than the increase in sales that such enforcement will bring about. Since these companies are so confident that infringement is the cause of their woes, they should have no problem investing money in legal teams that reap no financial gain in court.

     

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      The eejit (profile), Oct 4th, 2012 @ 4:04am

      Re: If its a crime then treat it like one

      The British Small Claims Courts deal mainly with cases where damages are under a set limit (around 5,000, if I recall correctly). Plus, in a Small Claims Court, the rulings are final: no appeals can be made for harsher damages awards, but rather on the technical merits of the case.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2012 @ 4:20am

    'A smarter and cheaper process is good for business and helping businesses make the most of their intellectual property is good for the economy.'

    it isn't going to do anything for those accused, or to stop the false claims. as for actually fixing what is really wrong with the whole copyright problem, this will do precisely nothing! what Fallon ought to do is look at the reasons why file sharing happens in the first place and the 'evidence' that is used to prosecute such cases. he should then be stopping the 'guilty unless able to prove innocence' syndrome which is totally contrary to the legal system of all supposed democratic countries, except the USA, and just about everywhere in the EU. the dictatorships and communist countries like Iran and China are laughing their bollocks off at how they are condemned for the way they treat their citizens when the similarities to everywhere else are so obvious now!

     

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      Chris (profile), Oct 4th, 2012 @ 4:26am

      Re:

      I wouldn't say it will do nothing... It will make it even cheaper and easier for copyright holders to sue more people.

      Can't help but think of 'Nanolaw with Daughter' after reading this post. Sounds like step one.

       

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    Michael, Oct 4th, 2012 @ 4:52am

    They want to 'streamline' the litigation process for copyright infringement. They may as well do it like a fast food drive thru. "Here's your fine for $2,000. Have a nice day sir." Just think of all the money they can extract from the general public, how much suffering it's going to cause for lower income households, all for the sake of a few wealthy CEOs. This style of trickle-up economics ought to help boost the economy, right?

     

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      DannyB (profile), Oct 4th, 2012 @ 5:49am

      Re:

      Drive-through service is so 20th century. This new court can just mail you your guilty verdict along with the amount of the court judgement against you. Interestingly, this new "low" amount will be just about the same amount that the dinosaurs try to collect today using pre-litigation settlement extortion letters. This whole scam beautifully works around how courts are waking up to the copyright dinosaurs using the courts as part of their extortion racket. High Court vs Low Court justice.

       

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        Michael, Oct 4th, 2012 @ 1:56pm

        Re: Re:

        Sadly, you're probably right. If such a thing does occur, I don't think they'll be prepared for the public outrage this will generate. We'll have to wait and see what comes of it.

         

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    abc gum, Oct 4th, 2012 @ 5:27am

    " insane and punitive damages"

    ... and I thought they wanted tort reform - lol.

     

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    DannyB (profile), Oct 4th, 2012 @ 5:46am

    High Court/Low Court justice

    Let's see this for what it really is.

    High Court vs Low Court justice.

    In low court, if you don't pay the "settlement" extortion letter for $7500, then the low court will impose it on you, guilty or not. It's not a pre-litigation settlement anymore, it's a judgement of the court. It's the same amount, so the dinosaurs get what they want. The dinosaurs don't have to play the game of pre-discovery of the identity of IP addresses, because in this new Low Court they will genuinely be willing to actually litigate. And court costs? Those will be very small so that they can now economically file one complaint per IP address, the court can discover the identity without revealing it to the dinosaur, then the dinosaur proceeds to litigate, regardless of any appearance or defense by the accused, the court finds against them and hands them exactly the "low" amount that the dinosaurs actually wanted, say about $7500. This solves so many problems. It streamlines the process. It works around the fact that so many courts are seeing through the extortion scam of dinosaurs not having any genuine intent to litigate.

    Look for the courts to automate the filing and discovery process so that a Bot from the dinosaurs can submit mass numbers of complaints.

    The RIAA is happy. The MPAA is happy. So everyone is happy. Everything is great. There couldn't possibly be any other stakeholders who should have any input.

    The court doesn't need drive-thru service, they can just send you your guilty verdict in the mail with the amount of the judgement against you that the court determined.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2012 @ 6:11am

    amazing how no one either wants to, is capable of or is too scared to actually sort this whole fiasco out properly, isn't it. i know there will be brown envelopes floating around politicians and courts, but i dont believe that all those people are corrupt. surely some must be reasonably honest?

     

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      DogBreath, Oct 4th, 2012 @ 9:49am

      Re:

      i know there will be brown envelopes floating around politicians and courts, but i dont believe that all those people are corrupt. surely some must be reasonably honest?

      No, because all of their associated IP addresses are on a guaranteed "Do Not Sue" list. If one of those accidentally gets "sued", it will be rejected automatically in court because it's on the "Do Not Sue" list.

      Politicians and those well connected constantly get away with these things because they have the power to exclude themselves from laws that are only written for (against) the little people (commoners). This one will be no different.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2012 @ 3:32pm

    New old extortion scheme:
    1. File a lawsuit in the Small Claims Court for a minor copyright offense
    2. Ask a small amount of money to compensate abuse of copyright
    3. Repeat 1-2 to get many successes
    4. File a lawsuit in the Small Claims Court for a minor copyright offense, claiming it's major
    5. Ask for the maximal amount of money, pointing to many past successful cases
    6. Repeat 4-5 indefinitely
    7. When people are fed up, ask for a Small Claims Court
    8. Go to 1.

     

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