Copyright Claims Board Begins Accepting Cases

In December 2020, Congress passed the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2020 (CASE Act), which directed the Copyright Office to establish the Copyright Claims Board (CCB). As explained by the Copyright Office, the CCB is a three-member tribunal within the Office that provides an “efficient and user-friendly option to resolve certain copyright disputes that involve up to $30,000 (called “small claims”).” It started taking cases in June. Given that a defendant may opt-out, it is unclear what impact this new court will have.

Key features of the CCB are:

  • User-friendly proceedings available to anyone—parties are permitted to have an attorney, but are not required to, and may represent themselves.
  • Remote proceedings handled entirely electronically through video conference.
  • Voluntary participation required by both parties, with an election to opt-out of a CCB proceeding within 60 days after receiving notice of a claim.
  • Limited discovery obligations involving only key documents and information.
  • Safeguards against abusive practices, allowing a party to receive its reasonable costs and attorneys’ fees up to $5,000 (or $2,500 for parties representing themselves) if a party acts in bad faith.

However, filing a claim with the CCB rather than in federal court also has certain limitations:

  • Limited jurisdiction to hear only certain copyright-related claims and counterclaims.
  • Limited relief options—monetary damages are capped at $30,000 and the CCB cannot issue an injunction against an infringer.
  • Limit on the number of claims a party can file in one year—for example, a maximum of 30 proceedings per claimant, or 80 proceedings per law firm on behalf of claimants in any 12-month period.
  • Prohibition against filing the same claim against a party in federal court after a final CCB determination. However, if a respondent timely opts out of a CCB proceeding, the filing party can bring the same claim against the party in federal court.
  • Limited options for seeking reconsideration, review, or appeal of a final CCB determination.

Finally, decisions of the CCB will be published but are not precedential.