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Copyright

A guide to copyright law as it relates to academic research, teaching, and publication.

CASE Act and Copyright Claims Board

The Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act (CASE Act (PDF link)) is a law passed by Congress in 2020 that set up a Copyright Claims Board (CCB), operating through the U.S. Copyright Office, for purported copyright holders to file for lower level damages (“small claims”) for alleged copyright infringement.

Previous to the CASE Act’s passage, if a copyright holder wanted to sue someone for copyright infringement, they would have to clear many procedural hurdles and expenses to file a complaint in federal court; it was only worth it for those who had suffered very large damages to sue over copyright infringement.

The CASE Act presents the CCB as a way for copyright holders to file small claims complaints through a quicker, less expensive process—that is, without many of the procedural requirements and expenses of a normal federal court case. The limit for damages in CCB cases is $30,000.

What it means to receive a claim notice

If you receive notice of a claim filed against you in CCB, it means that a purported copyright owner is asserting that you have infringed their copyright. The notice does not mean that you have actually infringed, or that the CCB will ultimately determine you have infringed; it means that someone has alleged infringement.

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.

It is important to note that it is possible to dispute a claim, or to opt out of the CCB proceeding entirely.

If you are an employee of the Division of Libraries...

The NYU Division of Libraries has already opted out of CCB proceedings, meaning that no copyright holder can bring a CCB claim against the Division of Libraries. The CASE Act allows libraries and archives to prospectively “opt out” of small claims proceedings, in large part because libraries rely on fair use all the time; this is intended to ensure that libraries are protected from targeting and bad-faith claims.

The Libraries’ decision to opt out of the CCB also extends to its employees; thus if you receive a claim notice relating to work done in the course of employment at the Division of Libraries, you are covered by the prospective opt-out.

If you are an NYU student, researcher, or staff member…

If you are a NYU student, faculty member, or staff member who is not employed with the Division of Libraries, and you receive a claim notice relating to what you do at NYU, please contact the NYU Office of General Counsel.

As with other issues relating to research communications, the Libraries’ Scholarly Communications and Information Policy Department (SCIP) can provide general information about how the law works, but cannot provide legal advice. You can email SCIP at open.access@nyu.edu.

 

Acknowledgment

The information on this page is adapted from UC Berkeley Library’s Copyright Small Claims page, by Rachael Samberg