Copyright Remedy Clarification Act

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Copyright Remedy Clarification Act
Great Seal of the United States
Long titleTo amend chapters 5 and 9 of title 17, United States Code, to clarify that States, instrumentalities of States, and officers and employees of States acting in their official capacity, are subject to suit in Federal court by any person for infringement of copyright and infringement of exclusive rights in mask works, and that all the remedies can be obtained in such suit that can be obtained in a suit against a private person or against other public entities.
Acronyms (colloquial)CRCA
Enacted bythe 101st United States Congress
Public lawPub. L. 101-553
Statutes at Large104 Stat. 2749 (1990)
Acts amendedCopyright Act of 1976
Titles amended17 (Copyrights)
U.S.C. sections amended17 USC 511(a)
Legislative history

The Copyright Remedy Clarification Act (CRCA) is a United States copyright law that attempts to abrogate sovereign immunity of states for copyright infringement. The CRCA amended 17 USC 511(a):

In general. Any State, any instrumentality of a State, and any officer or employee of a State or instrumentality of a State acting in his or her official capacity, shall not be immune, under the Eleventh Amendment of the Constitution of the United States or under any other doctrine of sovereign immunity, from suit in Federal Court by any person, including any governmental or nongovernmental entity, for a violation of any of the exclusive rights of a copyright owner provided by sections 106 through 122, for importing copies of phonorecords in violation of section 602, or for any other violation under this title.


The CRCA has been struck down as unconstitutional by district courts in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 9th, and 11th Circuit appellate courts. The 11th Circuit did not strike down the CRCA but did not allow it to be used to avoid sovereign immunity on the facts that were before it. A case in the 9th Circuit settled before decision. Courts have generally followed the logic applied by the US Supreme Court in Seminole Tribe v. Florida, and applied in the patent context in Florida Prepaid v. College Savings Bank, 527 U.S. 627 (1999). In these cases the Court held that the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits Congress from using its Article I powers to abrogate states' sovereign immunity (a holding that later Supreme Court cases such as Central Virginia Community College v. Katz have qualified), and that the Patent Remedy Clarification Act did not have a sufficient basis to meet Fourteenth Amendment requirements. Although most courts have refused to enforce the CRCA, one district court upheld the Act in 2017 and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals should rule on an appeal from that decision in mid- to late- 2018.

Several cases upheld the sovereign immunity of state universities in particular.[1][2] Legal scholars Paul Heald and Michael Wells wrote[3] that

the majority of lower courts that have addressed the question have assumed state universities to be arms of the state for the purpose of asserting Eleventh Amendment immunity. Putting aside until later the case of state officials sued in their official capacities, an entity that successfully proves it is an arm of the state presumptively is entitled to absolute immunity from suit in federal court, irrespective of the nature of the cause of action pleaded against it.

The CRCA attempt was repeated by Congress with the Intellectual Property Protection Restoration Act of 2001.[4]

Case law[edit]

  • Chavez v. Arte Publico Press, 204 F.3d 601 (5th Cir. 2000)
  • Salerno v. City Univ. of N.Y., 191 F. Supp. 2d 352 (S.D.N.Y. 2001)
  • Hairston v. N.C. Agricultural and Technical State University, 2005 WL 2136923 (M.D.N.C. 2005)
  • De Romero v. Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, 466 F. Supp. 2d 410 (D.P.R. 2006)
  • Marketing Information Masters v. The Trustees of the California State University, 522 F.Supp. 2d 1088 (S.D. Cal. 2008)
  • Romero v. California Dept. of Transportation, 2009 WL 650629 (C.D. Cal. 2009)
  • Jacobs v. Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, 710 F. Supp. 2d 663 (W.D. Tenn. 2010)
  • Parker v. Dufreshne, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 64481 (W.D. La. 2010)
  • Whipple v. Utah, 2011 WL 4368568 (D. Utah 2011)
  • National Association of Boards of Pharmacy v. University of Georgia (11th Cir. 2011)-- says CRCA could be justified by 14th Amendment but the case before it did not present a factually sufficient due process claim.
  • Reiner v. Saginaw Valley State University et al (Thomas Canale), E.D. Mich. March 15, 2018 (following other circuits in not entertaining a CRCA claim)
  • Coyle v. University of Kentucky, 2. F. Supp. 3d 1014 (E.D. Ky. March 4, 2014)
  • Issaenko v. Univ. of Minn., 57 F.Supp. 3d 985 (D. Minn. 2014)
  • Am. Shooting Ctr., Inc. v. Sefcor Int'l, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 96111 (S.D. Cal. July 22, 2016)

  • Alisa Wolf v. Oakland University, E.D. Mich. Dec. 5, 2016 (finding Chavez and Jacobs to be "highly persuasive")
  • Nettleman III v. Florida Atlantic University, S.D. Fla. Jan. 5, 2017 (finding plaintiff did not state a complaint under the CRCA sufficient to abrogate state immunity, and noting the 5th Circuit's Chavez holding CRCA to be unconstitutional)
  • Bell v. Indiana University (S.D. Ind. March 9, 2018)
  • Allen v. Cooper (4th Cir. 2018) - The 4th Circuit found it to be unconstitutional; the plaintiff has filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court (Case 18-877).


  1. ^ "Court Confirms Sovereign Immunity for State Universities in Copyright Suit". Copyright Licensing Office. Missing or empty |url= (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  2. ^ "Are Public Universities Immune from Copyright Infringement?". Copyright Licensing Office. Missing or empty |url= (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  3. ^ Paul J. Heald and Michael L. Wells, Remedies for the Misappropriation of Intellectual Property by State and Municipal Governments Before and After Seminole Tribe: The Eleventh Amendment and Other Immunity Doctrines, 55 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 849 (1998).
  4. ^ Alisa Roberts, Congress' Latest Attempt to Abrogate States' Sovereign Immunity Defense Against Copyright Infringement Actions: Will IPPRA Help the Music Industry Combat Online Piracy on College Campuses?, 12 DePaul J. Art, Tech. & Intell. Prop. L. 39 (2002)

See also[edit]