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Copyright

Provides a general introduction to copyright, fair use, copyright ownership, copyright for instructors, and useful resources.

CASE Act Overview

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 via a quicker, less expensive process — that is, without all of the procedural requirements of a normal federal court case. Damages are capped at $30,000 for CCB cases. 

This page is for ASU 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.

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.

The following categories of persons are potentially subject to CCB claims:

  • Students (including graduate students if their employment is unrelated to the matter being complained of; e.g., a graduate student is employed in a laboratory but the CCB claim is about images the student included in a dissertation). This is true regardless of whether the university is public or private.
  • Employees (e.g., faculty, lecturers, researchers, etc.) of public universities if the complained-of activities are beyond / outside of the scope of their employment (e.g., faculty member uploading copyrighted content to a personal website).

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. 

What do I do if I receive a claim?

If you're an ASU student worker or employee, and the claim is related to what you do at ASU, you may contact ASU's Office of General Counsel for help.

If someone makes a claim against you, you will receive two notices. The first notice will let you know about the claim and must be served on you by the party making the claim. The second notice is a reminder about the claim and will come from the CCB.

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:

  • 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, ASU 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 (plus any applicable time added for service of process in that jurisdiction).

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

Many thanks to Rachael Samberg from the University of California - Berkeley's Office of Scholarly Communication Services, for providing and sharing this excellent guidance to others.

And thank you to ASU's Office of General Counsel for working with ASU faculty, staff, and students on potential claims.

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