New Copyright Claims Board Creates “Small Claims” Alternative to Litigation
January 23, 2023
By Leon D. Bass, Esq.
Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP
Copyright litigants now have a lower-cost, streamlined option thanks to the Copyright Claims Board (“CCB”) at the United States copyright office. Established by the 2021 CASE Act, the CCB already has over 250 cases since its launch in July 2022. The CCB can hear claims for copyright infringement, declarations of non-infringement, misrepresentation claims in DMCA take down notices (section 512(f) claims), and legal and equitable actions, including fair use.
The CCB is an opt-in process for both parties. The parties may choose to appear with an attorney, pro-se, or with the help of law student. The CCB limits actual damages to $30,000 (there are no limits in federal court) or $15,000 in statutory damages (versus $150,000 in federal court). The CCB cannot make a finding of willfulness and has limited power to issue injunctions and attorneys’ fees.
The CCB’s streamlined litigation process includes standardized discovery requests, no depositions, no expert witness (except in rare circumstances), simplified motions, and a virtual format for conferences and hearings. The CCB has a standard track for claims up to $30,000 and a smaller, more streamlined track for claims up to $5000 that focuses on mediation-like conferences with the claims officer.
The CCB’s website home is at https://ccb.gov/
Advantages to Plaintiffs:
Potentially significantly lower litigation costs.
Lower filing fees.
Attorney not required; law students can be used
Ability to get limited statutory damages even if failure to timely register.
Potential free mediation.
If defendant opts-out can Plaintiff use that against them as factor in federal court when arguing for higher award.
Disadvantages to Plaintiffs:
Defendant can opt-out, causing plaintiff to lose filing fee and waste time filing a CCB claim first.
Limited statutory damages.
Attorney's fee award unlikely.
Still would need to file in district court to enforce after default judgment if defendant's doesn't pay.
Case can still be reviewed by district court, and thus may be appealable, which ultimately would add additional steps in the litigation process.
If cases end up in district court for review or judgment, only the federal court in the District of Columbia can be used, which would likely be an inconvenient forum for most plaintiffs and their attorneys.
Advantages to Defendants (reasons not to opt-out):
Likely savings on litigation costs and attorney's fees.
Statutory damages are drastically limited and attorney's fees award unlikely.
Disadvantages to Defendants:
May be plaintiff's only practical remedy; thus failure to opt-out may allow a case to proceed that would be impractical in federal court.
Threat of statutory damages that may not have been available in federal court.
Case moves quickly and is less complicated than federal court, making it more difficult to defend cases and establish leverage for settlement.
Leon D. Bass, Esq. is an intellectual property and entertainment attorney at
Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP in Taft’s Columbus, Ohio office.
In Practice 1998--2023
Leon D. Bass / Of Counsel*
Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP
P: 614-431-2277 (call/text)
65 E. State St. Ste. 1000
Columbus, OH 43215
Legal Assistant to Leon Bass
*Leon Bass is licensed as an attorney to practice law in Ohio and the U.S. Virgin Islands
Brown, Blaique J.