Copyfraud occurs when an individual or company wrongly claims to own the copyright in a work that is actually in the public domain. Works in the public domain have no copyright and are free for anyone to use. There is nothing wrong with people profiting from public domain works, including collecting them and charging people for access to them. However, wrongly claiming ownership of the copyright is fraudulent. Unfortunately, there are few legal consequences for copyfraud, so it has proliferated widely. This stifles culture and creativity, as people attempting to use public domain works may be met with false claims that prevent them from using the works, simply because they do not want to investigate and defend against the claim.
In one attempt to remedy the situation, fair use activists have called for penalties for companies that file unwarranted DMCA takedown notices.