One Month of the Copyright Claims Board

United States Copyright Office Seal

It has been a just over a month since the Copyright Claims Board (CCB) first opened its doors and the first 70 cases in it have been filed. 

Passed into law in December 2020 as part of the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act, the CCB aims to serve as something of a small claims court for copyright cases, hearing cases where damages are capped at $15,000 per infringement and $30,000 per case.

In exchange for the lowered damages, the CCB system aims to be both much cheaper and faster. The system is meant to be approachable bay laypeople though lawyers and, in some cases, law students, can provide assistance if desired. 

But with how novel the CCB is, both in the United States and the rest of the world, I’ve been watching the cases closely. In late June, we looked at how one instructor was using it to fight back against an online essay mill and some early trends of the CCB, including who it may help the most

But now that over a month has passed, I wanted to take a look and see what is going on with the CCB right now. Specifically, I wanted to see where we are in the process of these cases, what, if any, trends are emerging and what the likely next steps are.

Where Are We Now

The first cases with the CCB were filed on June 16, 2022, the day the board opened its electronic doors. Those cases are all largely in the same place: Waiting for service.

The order of operations of a CCB case, in general, goes as follows. First, the claimant files an initial claim. Then the CCB examines the claim and determines whether the claim is compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements. If it isn’t, it’s kicked back to the claimant to file an amended complaint. 

However, if they do find the claim to be proper, the CCB then provides the claimant with a Notice of Compliance and Direction to Serve document. This document provides instructions on the next steps, either serving the documents to the respondent or asking them to waive service.

With the Notice of Compliance document, the claimant also receives two packets, one for waiver of service and one for providing service. It is then up to the claimant to either serve the documents to the respondent using a process server, or get the respondent to waive service.

If that is not completed within 90 days, the case is dismissed without prejudice.

That is where these earliest cases sit, waiting on process service to be completed. After that service is completed, the respondents will have the decision to opt in or opt out of the proceedings and that will be when we first get an understanding on how many respondents will be willing to go through the system.

As of right now, none of the cases are listed as “closed.”

Other Emerging Trends

Though we haven’t determined if any respondents will opt in or opt out of the proceedings, there are a few other trends that are worth noting.

First, two claimants have already had their accounts temporarily disabled. In both cases, it is for the same reason: That they continued to file documents with the board while they were determining whether the case was compliant or not. 

In short, the board began to determine whether the cases met the standards for the CCB and the claimants continued to file documents. They were asked to stop and failed to do so, prompting their accounts to be disabled.

In both cases, that disabling will be lifted once the compliance review is over.

In addition to large numbers of filings in a single case, we’re also seeing individual claimants filing a large number of cases.

One plaintiff, Joe Hand Promotions, filed seven different cases with the CCB on July 20th. This amounts to 10% of all the claims filed with the CCB as of this writing.

Joe Hand Promotions is a boxing/fight promoter that is targeting several bars and restaurants for allegedly showing various pay-pre-view fights without authorization. This is something of a new use for the CCB as most of the cases prior dealt with photographers targeting use of the images by various companies.

While there are several claimants with multiple open cases, Joe Hand Promotions is by far the most active single claimant at this time.

Bottom Line

Right now, the CCB is very much in a space of finding itself and learning what it is and is not useful for. While there are trends already emerging, there are plenty of counter examples of any trend one does spot.

Many claimants are getting help from lawyers in filing their claims. However, many are not. A slight majority of the cases, right now, appear to be photographers targeting commercial use of their image. However, there are a wide variety of cases in the CCB, and we’re seeing new ones even now.

The one thing we definitely are seeing is who the most frustrated rightsholders in the country are. The one thing that all the claimants share is that, for one reason or another, the traditional system for enforcing copyright was not working for them.

While it’s far too early to make any determinations about the usefulness or effectiveness of the CCB, one thing we can see right now is who felt the greatest need for it.

I’m going to continue monitoring the CCB, examining the cases that are filed and their outcomes. There are still many unanswered questions. However, we can already see that there were plenty of creators and rightsholders who were very eager for just this kind of tool. 

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