The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 was signed into law on Dec. 27, 2020. The primary purpose of the law is to provide relief from the economic damage caused by COVID-19. However, the law also includes two significant changes to U.S. copyright law.

First, the law makes the illegal streaming of pirated, copyrighted material a felony. Second, the law creates the Copyright Claims Board, which is an administrative tribunal that can hear “small-claims” copyright-infringement cases.

Cases before the Copyright Claims Board can involve the normal claims, counterclaims and defenses that are set forth in typical copyright-infringement district court cases, but the participation by the parties in these small-claims proceedings is on a volunteer basis. The Copyright Claims Board can also hear cases concerning misrepresentations made with respect to takedown notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Essentially, the administrative tribunal will provide a forum for a type of alternate dispute resolution for copyright claims.

The Copyright Claims Board will have the authority to award monetary relief of up to $30,000.00. The monetary relief can be of the form of actual damages, profits or statutory damages. Attorney’s fees of up to $5,000.00 can be made in cases that involve certain bad-faith conduct. A losing party can also be ordered to cease certain conduct.

Discovery will be limited, generally, to written discovery requests in such proceedings. The parties will be entitled to a limited form of judicial review.

The Copyright Claims Board is expected to be formed by December 27, 2021.