Copyright Small Claims ready to roll
A SMALL CLAIMS procedure to hear copyright cases opened its doors on 1 October.
NUJ freelance organiser John Toner said: "The absence of such a procedure for many years has denied creators access to justice when their copyright has been infringed.
"For our members, it has been incredibly frustrating that they had been restricted from seeking redress through the courts. Now infringers can be pursued at a cost appropriate to the level of the infringement. In the long term, we hope the small claims track will act as a deterrent to would-be infringers. Our message is clear: do not wait until your copyright has been infringed before joining the NUJ. Join now, if you want to make use of this service"
Mike Holderness said as chair of the Creators' Rights Alliance: "Access to justice for individual creators is one of the seven pillars of the CRA's Manifesto for Creators.
"For too long creators, whether artists, photographers, writers or musicians, have been priced out of justice. This has contributed to the misperception that copyright is a special interest of the large corporations that can afford to bring cases.
"We hope that the ability of individual authors and performers to seek justice when their work is exploited without permission - usually by those large corporations - will help to redress that balance. It is is the rights of the individual creator that are the real foundation of the 'information economy' that is the best hope for economic growth in the UK."
The Small Claims track is part of the "Patents County Court" - which will, one day soon-ish, change its name to reflect its function as the Intellectual Property County Court. For the moment, the court is based only in London - though it is planned that many cases will be decided entirely on the basis of documents, avoiding the need to travel to the Strand.
There is a guide to using the service on the government's Justice site.
The following summary information is preliminary draft. We are seeking clarification.
Some of the key points appear to be:
- All proceedings should be issued at the public counter in the Rolls Building, Fetter Lane, London, EC4A 1NL.
- If there is a face-to-face hearing - if the case is not decided "on paper" - it will take place at the Thomas More Building,
Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London WC2A 2LL.
- We're checking where you can obtain the relevant form for a DIY claim: we think it's Form N1 available on the Courts Service site here.
- The fee for making a claim is payable when the claim is issued and is the same as in the normal Small Claims Court: currently £70 for claims between £500.01 and £1000, with am additional £80 fee if the claim goes to a hearing. For current details see the document Civil and Family Court Fees on the Courts Service site here.
- The claim form should be served on the defendant with a "response pack". We are looking for an online response pack document.
- You can present your claim yourself, or you can have a lawyer or lay representative - but see the costs limits below.
- As in the standard Small Claims Court, the costs that you can recover if you win - or that can be awarded against you if you lose - are very limited. The maxima are:
- £260 for legal representation in a case involving an injunction (for example to stop infringing a work);
- £90 per day loss of earnings for each person attending - and note that expert witnesses may appear only with the prior permission of the court.