With the launch of the new Copyright Claims Board (or CCB) on June 16 within the U.S. Copyright Office, Copyright Alliance CEO Keith Kupferschmid spoke with Register of Copyrights Shira Perlmutter to share some commonly asked questions about the CCB process and how it will work. Below are the questions Keith asked Register Perlmutter and her responses. A huge thanks to Register Perlmutter and to the U.S. Copyright Office staff for sharing this helpful information.
Keith Kupferschmid: Please explain what the Copyright Claims Board (CCB) is, why it is needed, and how it came about.
Shira Perlmutter: The Copyright Claims Board, or CCB, is the copyright version of a small claims court. It’s a tribunal within the Copyright Office where people who have copyright claims involving up to $30,000 in damages can have them resolved quickly and inexpensively, without needing to hire a lawyer.
Before the CCB, many of these claimants found it difficult as a practical matter to access the justice system. Bringing a lawsuit in federal court can be a long-drawn-out and expensive process, with complex procedural rules. So, copyright owners were often unable to enforce their rights, and those who wanted to use copyrighted works were left without certainty as to whether they could proceed without being subject to infringement claims.
In 2020, Congress took action to help. Following a recommendation by the Copyright Office, it enacted the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act, which established the CCB. The CASE Act tasked the Copyright Office with setting up the CCB and developing the rules to govern its proceedings. We have spent the past year and a half hiring staff, writing regulations, developing an electronic filing and case management system, launching a website, and getting the word out. And as of June 16, the CCB is open for business and accepting claims!
KK: The Copyright Office has talked about the CCB as an alternative to federal court. Can you explain how the CCB process compares to federal court?
SP: The CCB is designed to be a faster, more inexpensive, and streamlined alternative to litigation. Filing a claim with the CCB costs a fraction of what it does in federal court, you do not need to pay for a lawyer, and all proceedings will be conducted virtually. Additionally, the proceeding itself is simpler—the discovery process is much more limited, which means you can get a final determination more quickly.
Moreover, the CCB is staffed by three Officers, as well as other attorneys, with significant copyright expertise. Federal judges typically do not handle many copyright cases on a regular basis; the CCB offers all parties the opportunity to have their arguments heard by decision-makers with extensive experience in the field.
KK: What types of claims can be brought before the CCB? Are there types of claims that cannot be brought before the CCB?
SP: Most types of copyright claims can be brought before the CCB if they involve no more than the maximum of $30,000. This includes claims of infringement or requests for a declaration that specific conduct is non-infringing. It also includes claims that someone made a knowing misrepresentation in a “takedown” notice or counter-notice sent to an online service provider under the DMCA.
If you have questions about whether a claim is eligible, you can check out the CCB website or reach out to one of the CCB attorneys at firstname.lastname@example.org. They can’t give legal advice, but they can provide helpful, factual information about the CCB.
KK: One unique aspect of the CCB is the option to opt out of a proceeding. Can you explain the opt-out process?
SP: The CCB is a purely voluntary tribunal—no one can be forced to appear before it. Someone with a claim can decide whether to bring it to the CCB, and the other side has the choice of whether to respond or to opt out.
If they choose to opt out, there is a simple process to formally document that decision. Opting out is designed to be fast and easy. But this doesn’t necessarily mean the dispute is over—the claimant still has the ability to go to federal court instead. And there are a number of reasons why the CCB may be a preferable venue to federal court from the perspective of all parties.
There is also a special rule for eligible libraries and archives. They have the ability to preemptively opt out of all CCB proceedings, without having to do so for each one individually. The CCB maintains a list of libraries and archives that have preemptively opted out, and you can find it on our website. If you are considering filing a claim against a library or archive, make sure to check the list first to avoid wasting time or money.
KK: How much does it cost to bring a case before the CCB, and do you need an attorney to file a claim?
SP: To make the CCB as accessible as possible, fees have been set at a low level. At most, it costs a total of $100 to bring a claim: $40 at the time of filing and another $60 if the other side does not opt out and the claim moves forward. All of our fee information is available on the CCB website.
Although you are welcome to have an attorney, you do not need one to participate in a CCB proceeding. The rules were written to be understandable without legal expertise. We also built an easy-to-navigate electronic case management system, eCCB, and are providing a CCB Handbook that walks participants through the steps of the proceeding. There are also law clinics and pro bono legal organizations that are available to represent participants for free.
KK: What if someone disagrees with the outcome of a CCB case? Is there an appeals process for claimants and respondents?
SP: There is a review process, although it is more limited in scope than the appeals process in federal court. If a party is dissatisfied with the CCB’s final determination, there are three potential levels of review. The first is a request for reconsideration by the CCB. If the CCB denies the reconsideration request, the party can then ask me as the Register to review the final determination to see if the CCB abused its discretion in reaching its decision. Finally, in certain narrow circumstances, a party can ask a federal district court to cancel, modify, or correct the CCB determination.
The review options are spelled out in more detail on the CCB website.
KK: What are some of the resources available to potential claimants and respondents to help them navigate CCB processes and proceedings?
SP: These resources are really key. Because the CCB is designed to be used by everyone, even without legal assistance, we have focused on developing easily accessible tools and educational materials.
First of all, we have created a dedicated website. It is accessible at ccb.gov and features web pages dedicated to both the claimant and respondent roles. I would also recommend that anyone who is interested in the CASE Act and the CCB sign up for our dedicated mailing list to hear about the latest developments.
The website is also home to various lists and directories that will be useful. This includes the list of library and archive opt-outs, as well as a Designated Service Agent Directory that tells you how to notify a corporation, partnership, or association of a claim you are making against it. We are also gathering information from law school clinics and legal services organizations to provide a directory of entities that can provide support free of charge throughout a CCB proceeding.
And finally, I want to recommend the CCB Handbook. This is a key resource for anyone considering filing a claim or participating in a CCB proceeding. It breaks down CCB regulations and procedures into manageable sections and provides instructions in clear, straightforward language. You can check out the Handbook and related resources here.
KK: There is a lot that you know about how the CCB will operate. But, since the tribunal is brand new, what are some of the outstanding questions you and other experts at the Copyright Office have about how the CCB will operate in practice?
SP: Of course, there are many unknowns about what will happen. What we do know now is that the CCB has opened its doors and begun accepting claims smoothly and successfully! It remains to be seen, however, how copyright owners and users of works will interact with the system. For example, how many people will respond to a claim against them, and how many will opt out? What types of claims will be brought? And there will likely be changes over time as people learn more about the CCB and how it works and as it starts to issue decisions.
A lot of public input and stakeholder suggestions have gone into shaping the CCB’s procedures. But it is never possible to anticipate every issue that may arise. As more information becomes available, we will monitor how the CCB’s regulations, practices, and technologies are functioning so that we can make improvements and updates as needed.
KK: Is there anything else that you would like to share with the public about the Copyright Claims Board?
SP: At the beginning of 2022, the Copyright Office released our new strategic plan, and the first of the four goals it sets out is “copyright for all.” This means working to make the copyright system as understandable and accessible to as many members of the public as possible. The CCB is a key element in achieving that goal, as it enables greater access to justice for both creators and users of copyrighted works.
And let me stress for the Copyright Alliance audience that the CCB is available to resolve disputes involving all types of copyrighted materials. It can be used by photographers, songwriters, poets, writers, visual artists, small businesses, and any other authors and copyright users. If you have a copyright claim, please check out the website—ccb.gov—and consider whether the CCB is the right forum for you.
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