“Copyfraud is everywhere. [even appearing on modern reprints of Shakespeare's plays and the U.S. Constitution] . . . . These false copyright claims, which are often accompanied by threatened litigation for reproducing a work without the owner’s permission, result in users seeking licenses and paying fees to reproduce works that are free for everyone to use.
” . . . . There is also no remedy under the Act for individuals who wrongly refrain from legal copying or who make payment for permission to copy something they are in fact entitled to use for free. While falsely claiming copyright is technically a criminal offense under the Act, prosecutions are extremely rare. These circumstances have produced fraud on an untold scale, with millions of works in the public domain deemed copyrighted, and countless dollars paid out every year in licensing fees to make copies that could be made for free. Copyfraud stifles valid forms of reproduction and undermines free speech.“Congress should amend the Copyright Act to allow private parties to bring civil causes of action for false copyright claims. Courts should extend the availability of the copyright misuse defense to prevent copyright owners from enforcing an otherwise valid copyright if they have engaged in past copyfraud. . .”
—— You can find more on the doctrine of Copyright Misuse, in “The Evolving Doctrine of Copyright Misuse,” by Brett M. Frischmann and Daniel Moylan (July 2006, available at SSRN; via Andrew Raff at IPTABlog). Raizel at LawLibrary Blog has a lengthy and informative article on copyfraud involving Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit (“A Cautionary Tail,” March 15, 2006). Mary Minow’s LawLibrary.com offers a comprehensive list of resources on Copyright and Libraries, that many outside of libraries will also find helpful. It links, for example, to Peter B. Hirtle’s chart Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States.