Copyright small claims

This page is designed to give you basic information about the Copyright Claims Board, a “small claims” court that began hearing cases in 2022. As always, this site does not provide legal advice. 

The Copyright Claims Board (CCB) is a new tribunal established in 2022 by the Copyright Office at the direction of Congress. The CCB hears “small claims” copyright disputes involving not more than $30,000 in damages. If you receive a valid CCB notice, that generally means that someone is asserting you have infringed their copyright and has filed a claim at the CCB seeking redress. You have the right to opt out of having that claim heard by the CCB, but if you wish to do so, you must opt out on a timely basis. Please, do not ignore a CCB notice. Consult an attorney about the best choice for you if you receive a notice about your personal activity. Student Legal Services provides low-cost, confidential legal assistance to UVA students. Contact the Office of the University Counsel promptly if you receive a CCB notice related to your work at UVA.

Wait, what? What is this Small Claims thing?

In 2020, Congress passed a law called the “Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2020,” known as the “CASE Act.” The CASE Act mandated the formation of the CCB, a tribunal operating through the U.S. Copyright Office instead of the federal judicial branch, for the purpose of deciding copyright “small claims” via a quicker, less expensive process — that is, without all of the procedural requirements of a normal federal court case. Damages are capped at $30,000 for CCB cases.

This page is for UVA faculty, staff, students, and scholars who might one day receive a notice that a CCB action has been filed against them.

Under the terms of the CASE Act, the CCB cannot hear claims by or against state government entities. It is currently unclear whether that also bars CCB claims against state government employees. However, the CASE Act allows certain libraries and archives to preemptively opt out of all CCB cases, both on behalf of the library or archive and on behalf of any employees acting within the scope of their employment. The University has exercised this option, meaning that the CCB cannot hear copyright claims lodged against University library employees concerning alleged acts of infringement committed within the scope of their employment.

Please note that as with all information on this Copyright Resources website, our office cannot provide you with legal advice. However, we can help you understand how the law works. If you have further questions, contact us at or make an appointment to talk by Zoom.

If you receive a claim notice

What will a notice look like?

If you live in Virginia, then a genuine CCB claim notice is required to be “served” to you either in-person (i.e., handed to you) or by U.S. mail. If you have received only an email, you should be wary of its contents because email is not considered valid “service of process” in Virginia.

A genuine CCB case notice will include a docket number and contact information for the person filing the claim, their attorney, or their representative. The notice will have a link to the CCB website, where you can enter the docket number on your notice, view information about the particular claim filed against you, and take various actions.

What does it mean?

In most cases, a claim filed against you in the CCB means that a purported copyright owner is asserting that you have infringed their copyright through something you have uploaded, reproduced, published, created, distributed, performed, or displayed. The CCB can also hear claims for declaration of non-infringement (i.e., someone using your work wants an official declaration that they are not infringing your copyright), or claims disputing DMCA takedown notices.

The notice you receive signifies that the claimant has alleged copyright infringement (or one of the other claims), but the notice does not mean you have actually infringed or that the CCB will ultimately determine you have infringed.

Indeed, there are many reasons why your use of a copyrighted work may not be an infringement. For instance, there are key exceptions and limitations 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. Further, not everything is actually protected by copyright. Claimants may believe they hold copyright in materials that are not subject to copyright (e.g., because the materials reflect only facts or ideas) or are no longer protected by copyright (e.g., because the copyright in the materials has expired). Claimants may also believe that they hold copyright to materials for which copyright is actually held by a third party.

If you believe one of these situations applies to you — that is, that your use of the material is protected by an exception or that the allegations in the claim are not valid — you may wish to dispute the claim or opt out of the CCB proceeding entirely. We explain your options below. Regardless, we recommend you seek legal counsel as soon as possible after receipt of a CCB case notice.

What are your options?

If you receive a properly-served notice, do not ignore it. If you ignore it and do nothing, the case will proceed in the CCB, and a default judgment can be entered against you. This means that the CCB can enter a judgment holding you responsible for all the damages claimed in the notice (up to $30,000), regardless of whether the assertions are true or whether you could have claimed any defenses.

To avoid a default judgment, you will need to respond in the time prescribed by the notice. You can choose to respond in one of two ways:

  1. Proceed within the CCB tribunal. If you proceed, the case will be heard by the CCB. The CCB predicts that most cases will be handled completely online, so you will not need to travel to Washington D.C. (where the U.S. Copyright Office is physically located). You will be bound by the CCB’s decision. If the claimant wins, you may have to pay up to $15,000 for each infringed work, with a maximum cap of $30,000. CCB determinations are final. There are only limited circumstances — such as fraud, corruption, and misrepresentation — when a CCB determination can be reviewed by a federal court or the Copyright Office.
  2. Opt out of the CCB proceeding. It’s important to understand that, if you opt out, the copyright claimant cannot restart the same claim against you in front of the CCB. So, if you opt out of the CCB, the claimant can either stop pursuing the matter entirely or decide to file suit against you in federal court (assuming they meet all of the federal court filing requirements). Federal court is more expensive and complex than the CCB’s small claims process, so many small claimants may not want to incur the expense or may feel that their allegations will not survive scrutiny in federal court. Also, UVA employees likely have broader protections in federal court than in the CCB, so a timely opt-out may be a good option. UVA employees should contact University Counsel promptly to talk about this decision.

If you decide to opt out, you must mail the paper opt-out form provided with your notice, or complete an online opt-out form on the CCB website, within 60 days of service.

Note that if you decide to opt out, your decision applies only in response to that particular claim you received. As an individual (as opposed to certain organizations), you cannot opt out prospectively from all future CCB claims.

Where can you get help or more information?

If you’re a UVA student, staff, or faculty member, and the claim is related to work you do as a UVA employee, contact the Office of the University Counsel promptly.

The UVA Library Director of Information Policy can also answer questions about how the law works, but cannot dispense legal advice to you. You can contact us with questions at

Student Legal Services provides low-cost, confidential legal assistance to UVA students.

The U.S. Copyright Office provides additional information on their Copyright Claims Board Frequently Asked Questions page.

Adapted with permission from the “Small Claims” page at the Office of Scholarly Communication at UC Berkeley.