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Chavez v. Arte Publico Press

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
204 F.3d 601 (2000)


Chavez (plaintiff) sued the University of Houston (university) (defendant) for copyright infringement. The university opposed the lawsuit, arguing that it had sovereign immunity against unconsented-to lawsuits under the Eleventh Amendment and that the waiver of sovereign immunity asserted by the federal Copyright Remedy Clarification Act (CRCA) was unconstitutional. The legislative history of the CRCA shows that shows that Congress was concerned with preventing unconstitutional takings under the Fourteenth Amendment, rather than remedying any existing, widespread abuse by the states. Indeed, the legislative history only showed seven instances of states violating due-process rights of copyright holders because of sovereign immunity. Additionally, Congress did not thoroughly study existing state remedies to copyright infringement. At trial, one witness testified that his attorney had advised him that state courts were not available for copyright-infringement claims, and a report was submitted showing existing state waivers to the Eleventh Amendment. The legislative history also showed that Congress decided against allowing state courts to hear copyright claims, because doing so would undermine uniformity of the copyright laws. Finally, the CRCA does not limit the waiver of sovereign immunity to intentional violations, instead following the copyright standard considering intent only for calculating damages.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Jones, J.)

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