As a product of the U.S. federal government, this video is in the public domain.
In 2020, Congress passed a law called the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2020, also known as the CASE Act. Before this legislation, any copyright infringement disputes had to be filed in federal courts and could be very costly. The goal of the CASE Act was to make this process more accessible to individual creators (e.g., freelance photographers and musicians). It mandated the formation of the Copyright Claims Board (CCB), a tribunal operating under the authority of the U.S. Copyright Office instead of the federal judicial branch, for the purpose of deciding “small claims” copyright infringement actions via a quicker, less expensive process. Damages are capped at $30,000 for CCB cases.
If you receive a claim notice
What does it mean?
A claim filed against you in the CCB means that a purported copyright owner is asserting that you have infringed their copyright through something you have uploaded, reproduced, published, created, distributed, performed, or displayed.
The notice you receive signifies that the claimant has alleged copyright infringement, but the notice does not mean you have actually infringed or that the CCB will ultimately determine you have infringed. There are many reasons why your use of a copyrighted work may not be an infringement. For instance, key exceptions to copyright law exist to support teaching, scholarship, and research—most notably, fair use.
If you believe your use of the material is protected by an exception or the allegations in the claim are not valid, you may wish to dispute the claim, or you can opt out of the CCB proceeding entirely (more below). Regardless, we recommend you seek legal counsel as soon as possible if you receive a CCB case notice.
What are your options?
If you receive a CCB notice, do not ignore it. If you ignore it and do nothing, the case will proceed in the CCB, and a default judgment can be entered against you. This means that the CCB can hold you responsible for all the damages claimed in the notice (up to $30,000), regardless of whether the assertions are true or whether you could have claimed any defenses.
To avoid a default judgment, you will need to respond within 60 days of receiving the notice. You can choose to respond in one of two ways:
- Proceed within the CCB tribunal. If you proceed, the case will be heard by the CCB, and you will be bound by the CCB’s decision. If the claimant wins, you may have to pay up to $15,000 for each infringed work up to a maximum of $30,000. Options for appeals of CCB determinations are more limited than litigants would have in federal courts.
- Opt out of the CCB proceeding. If you opt out, the copyright claimant cannot restart the same claim against you in front of the CCB, so they can either send you a letter demanding a license fee for your use of the claimant’s copyrighted content, decide to file suit against you in federal court (assuming they meet all the federal court filing requirements), or stop pursuing the matter. Federal court is more expensive and complex than the CCB’s small claims process, so many small claimants may not want to incur the expense or may feel that their allegations would not survive scrutiny in federal court.
If you decide to opt out, you must mail the paper opt-out form provided with your notice or complete an online opt-out form on the CCB website.
Note that if you decide to opt out, your decision applies only in response to that particular claim you received. You cannot opt out prospectively from all future CCB claims.
Where can you get help or more information?
If you’re an Emory student, staff, or faculty member, and the claim is related to what you do at Emory, contact Emory’s Office of the General Counsel promptly.
Emory’s Scholarly Communication Office can also answer questions about how the law works, but we cannot dispense legal advice to you. You can contact us at email@example.com.
The U.S. Copyright Office provides additional information on the CCB website, including the Copyright Claims Board Frequently Asked Questions page.
The information on this page is adapted from Small Claims by Timothy Vollmer, Scholarly Communication and Copyright Librarian at UC Berkley; the original piece is licensed CC BY-NC 4.0.