5 Copyright Stories to Watch in 2021

2020 was a bizarre year. Of that there can be no doubt. The COVID-19 pandemic touched every aspect of our lives and copyright was no different.

That said, it was still a busy year for copyright news and rulings. The Led Zeppelin Stairway to Heaven lawsuit reached its conclusion and was likely the most-followed copyright story of the year.

Also, in the music industry, the Katy Perry Dark Horse was overturned and multiple lawsuits were filed against the Trump campaign over the unauthorized use of music at his events. Peloton and the NMPA also settled their dispute while Twitch found itself buried under a slew of music-related takedown notices.

2020 also was book publishers uniting to file a lawsuit against The Internet Archive over their “National Emergency Library”. Meanwhile, VidAngel reached a settlement in their case over their streaming service.

However, the biggest stories from 2020 may be the ones we haven’t seen the fruits of yet. Like most years, much of the news in 2020 was about setting the stage for a very active 2021.

To that end, here are five copyright stories or trends to watch in 2021.

1: The Impact of the CASE Act

Back in May 2019, we took a deep dive into the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act. In short, the act sets up a copyright small claims court that can hear cases with damages capped at $15,000 per work and $30,000 total.

While the act seemed to have been defeated, it made a surprise resurgence in the final weeks of 2020 as it was included in the omnibus spending bill that included, among others COVID-19 relief. That bill was passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives and was signed into law by President Trump shortly after the new year

The implementation of this law will take place over the course of 2021. Whether we’ll see the first small claims cases filed in 2021 is difficult to predict but the implementation and impact of this law is going to be crucial to follow through the year.

Also included in that spending bill was the Protect Lawful Streaming Act (PLSA) that makes high-level commercial streaming a felony offense, much as it is for download services now. This law is not likely to see drastic impacts because of the high bar for criminal copyright infringement and how rarely the criminal copyright infringement code is used.

Still, we may see the first prosecutions under the PLSA as illegal streaming services become targets for criminal action.

2: Oracle v. Google Fallout

First filed in August 2010, the Oracle v. Google case has been going on for over a decade and is making its second trip to the Supreme Court with arguments being heard in October 2020.

The case centers around Google’s implementation of the Java programming language in their Android mobile operating system. According to Google, they recreated the language from the ground up but Oracle, which owns and l