In 2020, Congress passed a law called the “Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2020,” known as the “CASE Act.” The CASE Act mandated the formation of the Copyright Claims Board (“CCB”), a tribunal operating through the U.S. Copyright Office instead of the federal judicial branch, for the purpose of deciding “small claims” copyright infringement actions without all the procedural requirements of a federal court case. The CCB will provide a fair, efficient, and user-friendly way to resolve copyright disputes that involve up to $30,000. If you receive a valid CCB notice, that generally means that someone is asserting you have infringed their copyright and has filed a claim at the CCB seeking redress. You have the right to opt out of having that claim heard by the CCB, but if you wish to do so, you must opt out on a timely basis. Please, do not ignore a CCB notice. Contact the Intellectual Property Office promptly if you receive a CCB notice related to your work at BYU-Idaho.
This page is for BYUI-affiliated faculty, staff, students, employees., and others who might one day find themselves in receipt of a notice that a CCB action has been filed against them.
Please note that the U.S. Copyright Office is still creating the rules that implement this new law, so the information on this page will evolve. And as with all information on the BYUI Copyright website, this office cannot provide you with legal advice. However, we can help you understand how the law works. If you have further questions, contact us at email@example.com.
What will a CCB notice look like?
A genuine CCB case notice will include:
- A URL for one or more pages on the CCB website at ccb.gov.
- A docket number. You can go to the CCB website and enter the docket number on your notice, and the information on the website should match the information on your notice.
Someone who has initiated a CCB case against you has to provide you with proper notice of the case, and the requirements for providing notice are referred to as “service.” Under CCB rules and applicable law in Idaho, you can receive service in person or by postal mail, but not by email. If you’ve received a CCB notice solely by email, be careful. It is likely fake, and you should avoid providing personal information in response.
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.
Indeed, there are many reasons why your use of a copyrighted work may not be an infringement. For instance, there are key exceptions to copyright law that support teaching, scholarship, and research—most notably, fair use. These exceptions provide complete defenses to claims of infringement or, in some instances, permit a significant reduction of damages.
Further, not everything is actually protected by copyright. Claimants may believe they hold copyright in materials that are not subject to copyright (e.g., because the materials reflect only facts or ideas) or are no longer protected by copyright (e.g., because the copyright in the materials has expired). Claimants may also believe that they hold the copyright to materials for which copyright is actually held by a third party.
If you believe one of these situations applies to you—that is, that your use of the material is protected by an exception or that the allegations in the claim are not valid—you may wish to dispute the claim or opt out of the CCB proceeding entirely. We explain your options below. Regardless, we recommend you seek legal counsel as soon as possible after receipt of a CCB case notice.
What are your options?
If you receive a properly-served 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 enter a judgment holding 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 in a timely fashion (i.e., within 60 days of service). 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. The CCB predicts that most cases will be handled completely online, so you will not need to travel to Washington D.C. (where the U.S. Copyright Office is physically located). 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, with a maximum cap of $30,000. CCB determinations are final. There are only limited circumstances—such as fraud, corruption, and misrepresentation—when a CCB determination can be reviewed by a federal court or the Copyright Office.
- Opt out of the CCB proceeding. It’s important to understand that, if you opt out, the copyright claimant cannot restart the same claim against you in front of the CCB. So, if you opt out of the CCB, the claimant can either stop pursuing the matter entirely or decide to file suit against you in federal court (assuming they meet all of the federal court filing requirements). 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 will not survive scrutiny in federal court. Also, BYUI employees likely have broader protections in federal court than in the CCB for claims related to educational uses, so a timely opt-out may be a good option.
If you decide to opt out, complete the paper opt-out form provided with your notice, or complete an online opt-out form on the CCB website, within 60 days of service. Note that if you decide to opt out, your decision applies only in response to that particular claim you received. As an individual (as opposed to certain organizations), you cannot opt out prospectively from all future CCB claims.
Where can you get help or more information?
If you’re a BYUI student, staff, or faculty member, and the claim is related to what you do at BYU-Idaho, contact the BYUI Intellectual Property Office promptly. You can contact us with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The U.S. Copyright Office provides additional information on their Copyright Claims Board Frequently Asked Questions page.
Content lightly adapted from UC Berkeley Library, Office of Scholarly Communications, CC-BY-NC 4.0.