Copyright infringement is not merely a civil violation of the law, it can be a crime. In this day and age, copyright infringement can happen at the click of a button. Sometimes we do not even know that our actions can be construed as infringement, let alone criminal copyright infringement.
As such, the following information is intended to help you better understand what criminal copyright infringement is and the various penalties associated with it.
What is Criminal Copyright Infringement
Criminal copyright infringement is the same thing as civil copyright infringement, only the penalties vary. In the criminal context, for example, you can actually go to jail.
Generally speaking, copyright infringement arises when you violate one or more of the exclusive rights granted to a copyright owner. You can be found guilty of criminal copyright infringement if someone else had ownership over a valid copyright and you copied constituent elements of the work that were original.
For example, if I author a book, get it copyrighted, copy several chapters from it without my permission, and use my chapters in a book that you independently sell as if they are your own, your actions will give rise to copyright infringement.
Remember, one of the key requirements for a valid copyright is ownership. Without proof of ownership, a prosecutor will not be able to properly prove your guilt.
Ownership of a valid copyright consists of:
- Originality in the author
- Material that can be copyrighted
- A national point of attachment of the work (i.e. to permit a claim of copyright)
- Compliance with relevant statutes
Additionally, proof of copying is required before you can be convicted of criminal copyright infringement. Proof of copying is usually shown through circumstantial evidence establishing that:
- you had access to the work at issue and
- probative similarities exist between the work at issue and the work you made.
Penalties for Criminal Copyright Infringement
According to 17 USC § 506, if you willfully infringe a copyright by any of the following ways, you can go to jail for up to 5 years for a first offense and up to 10 years for a second offense:
- Infringing for the purpose of obtaining commercial advantage or private financial gain
- Infringing through the reproduction or distribution (during any 180-day period) of 1 or more copies of 1 or more copyrighted works that have a total retail value of more than $1,000
- Infringing through the distribution of a work being prepared for commercial distribution by making it available on a computer network that is accessible to members of the public (so long as you knew or should have known that the work was intended for commercial distribution)
Remember, contrary to popular belief, criminal copyright infringement is a big deal that carries significant penalties. Make sure to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney if you are ever charged with it.
Who Should You Contact?
If you or a loved one has been charged with criminal copyright infringement, contact Adam H. Rosenblum of The Rosenblum Law Firm today. His team of skilled criminal defense attorneys will do what they can to protect your legal rights and fight to keep you out of prison. E-mail or call 888-815-364
Below is the results of a copyright infringement case we got dismissed for one of our clients who was charged with downloading copyrighted material from bit torrent.