Frequently Asked Questions
About the CCB
What is the Copyright Claims Board (CCB)?
The Copyright Claims Board (CCB) is an alternative forum to federal court to resolve copyright disputes up to $30,000 total (called “small claims”). Its use is voluntary, but it provides advantages over federal court for those who want to resolve certain copyright disputes before a panel of copyright experts as opposed to a jury or a federal judge. It is intended to be a streamlined, less-expensive alternative.
Where is the CCB located?
The CCB is located at the U.S. Copyright Office at 101 Independence Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20540. Note, however, that proceedings are handled completely electronically and remotely, so you do not need to travel to Washington, DC, to participate.
Who will hear the small claims?
The CCB is located in the Copyright Office and consists of three Officers appointed by the Librarian of Congress on the recommendation of the Register of Copyrights.
You can read their bios here.
Two of the Officers have substantial experience in evaluation, litigation, or adjudication of copyright infringement claims. These Officers have represented or presided over different types of copyright interests, including those of copyright owners and users. The third Officer has substantial familiarity with copyright law and experience in the field of alternative dispute resolution. The Officers are supported by several copyright attorneys, a paralegal, and an assistant.
Why is the CCB not mandatory? Why is there an option to opt out?
The Constitution outlines the roles of federal courts and guarantees the right to a jury trial and due process. The CCB is a streamlined alternative to federal court, but it is a voluntary option in which both parties must agree to participate.
About Small Claims Procedures
What are “small copyright claims”?
“Small copyright claims” are claims involving relatively low amounts of money. In federal court, actual damages and profits in copyright cases do not have an upper limit, and statutory damages can be as high as $150,000 per work infringed. Small copyright claims that can be brought before the CCB cannot seek more than $30,000 in total damages, and any statutory damages are limited to $15,000 per work infringed. Because the maximum amount of money damages that the CCB can award are a small fraction of what a federal court could award, which are called “small copyright claims.”
Will I have to file a claim with the CCB, or can I file a claim in federal court?
Because using the CCB is voluntary, you can choose whether to file your claim with the CCB or in federal court. Note, however, that you are not permitted file the same claim or counterclaim in both venues.
When can I file a claim with the CCB?
The CCB is now open for claim filings. Please visit eCCB to file your claim.
Is there a time limit (or statute of limitations) for when I can file a claim?
Just like in federal court, a rule called a “statute of limitations” sets a time limit within which a party must begin legal proceedings with the CCB. The statute of limitations for copyright infringement and misrepresentation claims is three years from when the infringing activity took place. For more information on this topic, see our claimant page.
What types of claims and defenses can the CCB consider?
The CCB is able to consider the following:
- Claims for infringement of one of the exclusive rights in the Copyright Act;
- Claims for a declaration of noninfringement of an exclusive right (when a party wants a legal confirmation that its activities will not make it liable for infringement);
- Claims for misrepresentation during the notice and counter-notice process for takedown or reinstatement of material on the internet under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA);
- Counterclaims related to the same transaction or occurrence that is the subject of the original claim;
- Counterclaims on a contract where the contract affects the claimant’s rights in the original claim; and
- All legal or equitable defenses under copyright law or otherwise available.
Can the CCB refuse to hear my claim or counterclaim even if it is an infringement claim, a declaration of noninfringement claim, or a misrepresentation claim?
Yes, in some circumstances. The CCB can refuse to hear any claim or counterclaim that it would otherwise consider if:
- You fail to serve a claim on the responding party;
- The responding party opts out of participating in the proceeding (only for claims, not counterclaims);
- You fail to pay the required fees;
- You bring a claim and miss deadlines, even after CCB’s warnings about those deadlines, unless you have justifiable cause (this is known as a “failure to prosecute”);
- You fail to join a necessary party (a party so important to the claim that the case cannot proceed without it);
- An essential witness, evidence, or expert testimony is missing; or
- The Copyright Office refused to register the work at issue.
Do I need to register my work with the Copyright Office before I bring a claim?
No, but you do need to have at least submitted an application. To bring a claim with the CCB, you must either (1) have a registration from the Copyright Office for the work(s) at issue or (2) have submitted an application to register the work(s) either before or simultaneously with filing the claim. If your application is later refused, the CCB will dismiss the claim without prejudice (meaning that you can then file it in federal court).
This is different than registration requirements for most claims involving U.S. works in federal courts. In federal lawsuits, you normally need to have a registration from the Copyright Office before you can bring your case. Federal courts will also allow you to bring and maintain a case based on an application that the Copyright Office has already refused.
If I do not have a registration when I file a claim with the CCB, is it possible to have the Copyright Office process my application quickly so I don’t have to wait the usual time to get a registration?
Yes. Claimants or counterclaimants who have an active claim involving a work with a pending registration application may seek expedited review of that application. This is done by requesting a “small claims expedited registration” through eCCB and paying the required fee.
What kind of relief is available through the CCB?
Relief is primarily monetary, within certain limits. A party cannot bring a claim before the CCB seeking more than $30,000 in total damages. A party who brings a successful copyright infringement claim can choose to recover either statutory damages (a dollar amount in specific ranges set by the Copyright Act) or actual damages and profits (a dollar amount based on the actual harm suffered by the copyright owner and the profits made from the infringement).
The CCB cannot issue an order (called an “injunction” in federal court) requiring an infringer to stop engaging in further wrongful activities. It can, however, include in its determination a requirement that a party stop or modify certain activities if that party has agreed to do so. For more information about the types of remedies available, visit our Claimant Information page.
Can I recover attorneys’ fees and costs?
Only in some circumstances. Attorneys’ fees and costs are not within the range of relief that the CCB can normally award to a successful claimant or respondent. The exception is if a party acts in bad faith. In that case, the CCB will be able to require it to pay the other party’s reasonable costs and attorneys’ fees. The cap on costs and attorneys’ fees will then be $5,000, or $2,500 if the other party is not represented by an attorney. The CCB will also be able to award a higher amount in extraordinary circumstances.
Are there different procedures for claims of $5,000 or less?
Yes. When total damages sought in a claim do not exceed $5,000 (exclusive of attorneys’ fees and costs), a claimant may request consideration under the CCB’s “Smaller Claims” procedures. Smaller Claims will be decided by a single Copyright Claims Officer, but the determination will have the same effect as one issued by the full CCB. These types of cases are even more streamlined than the typical cases before the CCB.
The Copyright Office has published proposed regulations with further details regarding these types of proceedings.
Do I need an attorney?
No. You do not need an attorney to file or respond to a claim with the CCB. CCB proceedings have been designed to be clear and usable, including by parties without legal training. However, parties have the option to be represented by or consult with an attorney. You may also wish to work with an approved legal clinic or pro bono organization that does not charge legal fees; for more information please see our help page.
How do I file a claim or counterclaim?
Parties may file claims and counterclaims through eCCB, the electronic filing and case management system for the CCB. Participants and their representatives may register for access to eCCB to file, receive, and review documents, including notices and case documents.
How will I know if there is a CCB proceeding against me?
If someone makes a claim against you, you will receive two notices. The first notice will let you know about the claim and will be delivered by the party making the claim. The second notice is a reminder about the claim and will come from the CCB.
What are “service of process” and “proof of service”? How do they relate to the notice that parties bringing CCB claims must provide to the party they want to bring into a CCB proceeding?
“Service of process” is the legal term for how a party bringing a claim or counterclaim provides notice to the other party that there is a pending claim against them. This will normally involve providing you with a copy of the claim either in person or by mail.
“Proof of service” is the documentation a party must give the CCB showing that it properly provided the other party with the required materials, including the notice of the proceeding.
What if I do not want to participate in a CCB proceeding?
You can opt out of a CCB proceeding by following the instructions included in the notices you will receive. If you opt out, however, the other party can bring the same claim against you in federal court. If that happens, the fact that you opted out will not be held against you in the federal court proceeding. There are a number of different considerations to weigh. For more information, please see our Respondent Resource page.
Are there any special rules for libraries and archives?
Yes. In addition to using the usual opt-out process, libraries and archives are able to preemptively opt out of all CCB proceedings without having to individually respond to each claim that might be brought against them.
What happens if a party does not opt out of a proceeding and does not respond or appear?
This is a risky course of action as it can lead to a default. If a party does not opt out of the proceeding and does not participate in the proceeding, or stops participating in some cases, the CCB may enter a default determination against that party. The CCB has specific procedures to minimize the risk of default. If the CCB decides that a party is in default, it can dismiss their claims or counterclaims and order them to pay monetary damages.
The CCB can “vacate” (reverse), a default determination in certain circumstances, including if the CCB believes the default would not be fair. A party can also ask a federal district court to reverse, modify, or correct a CCB determination if the default was caused by excusable neglect.
What kind of discovery is allowed in CCB proceedings?
There will be some discovery, but more limited than in federal court. “Discovery” is the process of sharing information with all parties about the evidence relevant to the proceeding. Such information can include documents or images, objects, or a party’s responses to formal questions. The discovery process in a CCB proceeding is streamlined. The discovery period will be relatively brief, and the scope of discovery, which will include written questions (called “interrogatories”) and document requests, will be limited.
What if the party who brings a claim stops pursuing it?
If a party brings a claim but does not pursue it, either by not properly notifying the other party or by failing to meet CCB deadlines or requirements, the CCB may dismiss the claim, and the party may be subject to a default determination.
What will I be able to do if I disagree with a CCB determination in a proceeding in which I am a party? Will I be able to appeal?
There are several channels to obtain a review of a CCB determination. Depending on the reasons for your disagreement, you will be able to ask the CCB, the Register of Copyrights (the Director of the Copyright Office), or a federal court to review the determination. Specifically, you will have the following options:
- Request that the CCB reconsider a determination if it includes a technical mistake or a clear legal or factual error that is material to the determination;
- If the CCB denies your request for reconsideration, ask the Register of Copyrights to review the determination to see if the CCB abused its discretion when denying the request for reconsideration (the Register cannot review the determination for other reasons); or
- Ask a federal district court to reverse, modify, or correct a CCB determination only in the following circumstances:
- (1) the determination was issued as a result of fraud, corruption, misrepresentation, or other misconduct;
- (2) the CCB exceeded its authority or failed to issue a final determination; or
- (3) in the case of a default or failure to prosecute, when there was “excusable neglect.”
It is important to note that these options are more limited than the avenues for review of a federal court decision. When you appeal a decision by a federal court, the appeals court can review any aspect of the decision, including errors of law and fact. The reason for this difference is that the benefits of participating in a CCB proceeding would be seriously reduced if the parties had to engage in more extensive litigation in federal court after it was over.
Does the CCB have any protections against abusive actors?
Yes. The CCB has multiple tools for preventing abuse, including requiring bad-faith parties to pay the other party’s costs and attorneys’ fees up to a certain amount, banning them from CCB proceedings for a year, and dismissing all of their pending claims. The Copyright Office has published regulations with further details explaining these tools.
What will happen if a party does not comply with a CCB order to pay damages?
If the CCB orders a respondent to pay damages, and it fails to do so, the claimant can ask a federal district court to take action to require payment.