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Copyright Quick Reference Guide

This guide provides basic information on copyright law to help you make sense of your copyright questions.

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 Copyright Claims Board (“CCB”), a tribunal operating through the U.S. Copyright Office instead of the federal judicial branch, for the purpose of deciding “small claims” copyright infringement actions 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 UNT faculty, staff, students, and scholars who might one day find themselves in receipt of a notice that a CCB action has been filed against them.

Please note that the U.S. Copyright Office is still creating the rules that implement this new law, so the information on this page may evolve.

If you receive a claim notice

What will a notice look like?

A genuine CCB case notice will include a docket number and other information yet to be determined. 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 against you, and take various actions. 

What does it mean?

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 notice you receive signifies that the claimant has alleged copyright infringement, 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 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 recommend you seek legal counsel as soon as possible after receipt of a CCB case notice.

What should you do?

If you’re a UNT student employee, staff, or faculty member, and the claim is related to work performed in your capacity as a UNT employee, contact the Office of General Counsel of the UNT System promptly.

If the notice is not related to what you do at UNT, consider seeking legal counsel.

Options for legal advice

For legal advice, consider the following options:

  • UNT Student Legal Services provides free legal help to UNT students on issues that do not involve the university, such as for works created by students outside of paid employment at the university.
  • For certain issues related to copyright, you may qualify for help from the Trademark & Copyright Clinic at the Texas A&M University School of Law in Fort Worth or from a similar clinic at another law school closer to you.
  • If you have a serious legal problem, please seek assistance from a lawyer; you can find the State Bar of Texas's lawyer referral & information service here.

Where can you get help or more information?

The UNT Libraries Copyright Advisory Services can also answer questions about how the law works, but cannot dispense legal advice to you. You can contact us with questions at copyright@unt.edu.

The CCB provides additional information on their Frequently Asked Questions page.

The CASE Act Toolkit is provided by the Association of Research Libraries and describes what the law is and how campuses can prepare for upcoming regulations.

This guide to copyright “small claims” is a derivative of Copyright “Small Claims” by UC Berkeley Library, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 International License.

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