Copyright Remedy Clarification Act

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Copyright Remedy Clarification Act
Great Seal of the United States
Long title To 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 by the 101st United States Congress
Public law Pub. L. 101-553
Statutes at Large 104 Stat. 2749 (1990)
Acts amended Copyright Act of 1976
Titles amended 17 (Copyrights)
U.S.C. sections amended 17 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 Circuits and by the 5th Circuit appellate court. 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.

Case law[edit]

  • Chaves 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.
  • Coyle v. University of Kentucky (E.D.Ky. 2014)
  • Allen v. Cooper (E.D.N.C. 2017) - upholds constitutionality of CRCA; on appeal in 4th Circuit (Case 17-1522)