What is copyright infringement? You need to know everything

September 25, 2022

Copyright infringement happens when one of the special rights of copyright is utilized without the owner’s permission. Primary and secondary infringement come in two forms. A primary violation involves an accused direct violation. When one individual or company helps another in violating copyright, this is termed secondary infringement.

Contributory and vicarious infringement are two types of secondary infringing, which are neither directly banned by the Copyright Act nor have been declared unlawful by case law. If a person knew about the infringement or had reason to know about it, they may be made responsible as a contributory infringer. Courts will decide whether a person or company is fully responsible by examining to see if the superior party (such an employer) benefited from the infringement of the primary or direct offender and had authority and control over the direct infringer.

To defend copyright, a copyright holder often delivers a warning letter to the person or business exploiting an exclusive right. In some situations, multiple warning letter letters are received. If communication is unsuccessful, the copyright holder may bring an action in federal district court to protect their rights. If a copyright is registered with the Copyright Office, the violator may be required to pay legal costs and perhaps attorneys’ fees to the copyright holder. Additionally, a violator won’t be permitted to continue using the work.

A plaintiff must show copyright ownership and prove that the offender copied or otherwise violated on his or her rights in the creative features of the copyrighted work in order to win a case for primary infringement. When a plaintiff establishes that the offender had access to the original work and that there is an important features between both works, proof of copying is sometimes performed through evidence in the case. Courts look for similarities in the two works’ forms, appearance, sounds or words, and sequencing when judging whether there is a substantial similarity. Though owners are not needed to post a notice or register their work with the Copyright Office, doing so in a reasonable timeframe makes it simpler to prove a copyright infringement case later.

If a copyright holder is able to prove infringement, they are eligible to both real damages and the infringer’s profits. The “lost market value” at the time of the infringement is applied to calculate actual damages. The copyright holder must show the infringer’s net income when calculating profits, and the infringer must show any business deductions and elements of earnings that are related to sources other than the original creator of the work. A copyright owner may decide to seek actual damages in front in an amount between $750 and $30,000 the court considers appropriate for all violations of the law.

The owner of the copyright may receive actual damages and attorneys’ fees without having to prove actual damages if the work was registered with the Copyright Office within three months of the publication date or prior to the infringement. If the infringer is a public broadcasting company that violates the law by performing or reproducing a nondramatic writings, or if the infringer is an employee or agent of a nonprofit educational institution or library who violates the law while acting in the course of employment, legal damages, instead of actual damages, must be awarded.

When infringement is “purposeful,” criminal penalties are possible. The court may enhance the lawful damages judgement to up to $150,000 if it finds that the infringement was intentional. However, the court also has the option to limit damages about no less than $200 when an offender did not have reasons to believe that his or her usage was unlawful.


The following common arguments may be raised by your attorney if you are accused of copyright infringement:.

  • The period of limitation has expired.;
  • You were unaware that the work was copyrighted and had no reason to be.;
  • The principle of fair use allows your infringement;
  • You alone and without copying made your work; or
  • The copyright holder gave you permission to use the work.

The fair use argument is the least bad with those options. The most of the time, fair use is shown when the infringer work is a criticism of the earlier work, reports the news, is considered as research, is used for nonprofit educational purposes, or is copied.

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