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Copyright, Fair Use, & Author Rights: Copyright Claims Board (CCB)

This page is for UC San Diego faculty, staff, students, and scholars who might one day find themselves in receipt of a notice that a CCB action has been filed against them. The University of California also has a systemwide information page for UC-affiliated scholars, students, and employees.

The information presented by the Library about copyright is intended for information purposes, and should not be construed as legal advice. While we cannot provide legal advice, we can help explain these issues in greater detail.

Thanks to the UC Berkeley Library Office of Scholarly Communication Services for most of the content on this page. Except where otherwise noted, this work is subject to a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License.

What is the CASE Act and the Copyright Claims Board (“CCB”)

In 2020, Congress passed a law called the “Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2020,” known as the “CASE Act.” This is a new law that creates a copyright claims board that can hear small claims outside of the Federal court system. The maximum claim is for $10,000 per work infringed with a maximum total of $30,000.

 

The most important thing to remember is that whether or not you believe that your use is fair use, or if you believe the work is in the public domain, every notice from the CCB must be responded to in a timely manner. While the board is not a court and it was designed to not require legal representation, failure to respond in a timely manner can result in a default judgment against you for lack of response.

What will a notice look like?

If you live in California, then a genuine CCB claim notice is required to be “served” to you either in-person (i.e., handed to you) or by U.S. mail. If you have received only an email, you should be wary of its contents because email is not considered valid “service of process” in California.

 

A genuine CCB case notice will include a docket number and other information yet to be determined. The notice will have a link to the CCB website, where you can enter the docket number on your notice, view information about the particular claim filed against you, and take various actions. 

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 the time prescribed by the notice. You can choose to respond in one of two ways:

 

  1. 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.
  2. 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, UC employees likely have broader protections in federal court than in the CCB, so a timely opt-out may be a good option. 

 

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, within 60 days of service. Note that in California, additional time may be added to the deadline for your response if service of the notice to you was made by mail, pursuant to California rules for service of process

 

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.

What does this 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 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.

Where can I get help?

If you’re a UCSan Diego student, staff, or faculty member, and the claim is related to what you do at UC, contact the UC San Diego Chief Campus Council or UC’s Office of General Counsel promptly.

The U.S. Copyright Office provides additional information on their Copyright Claims Board Frequently Asked Questions page.