- The person who owns the rights to the work that was copied can sue you in civil court for damages of $200 to up to $150,000.
- A prosecutor could charge you with criminal copyright infringement in violation of federal copyright laws. In reality, this is a relatively rare occurrence for minor cases of copyright infringement, since there is often a great deal of time and expense involved in prosecuting any case, including copyright one.
- Fines of up to $250,000
- Up to five years in jail
- The copyright owner needs to sue the person infringing on the copyright. The owner of the copyright must have proof that the copyright has been infringed upon in some way.
- If the copyright owner is awarded actual damages, he will be awarded the monies that were lost due to the infringement.
- If the infringer has made money off of the infringement, the infringer can also be directed to pay the copyright owner all or a portion of the profits earned from what they stole. It is up to the infringer to prove that portions of the profit they have earned came from something other than the copyrighted work if they want to keep some or all of the money they made.
- If the copyright owner is awarded statutory damages, then this means that instead of suing for actual damages, they can sue for a certain amount of money.
- Typically statutory awards are given somewhere in the range from $750 to over $30,000. The court can decide to award more damages to the copyright owner. The copyright owner can be awarded up to $150,000.
The definition of copyright infringement is the illegal duplication or theft of someone else's creative work that has been protected by a copyright.
Penalties for Copyright Infringement
The penalties for copyright infringement come from two possible sources:
Criminal Copyright Penalties
In the event that you actually are prosecuted for criminal copyright, you face:
These are some fairly severe penalties from criminal copyright.
Civil Copyright Penalties
Most often, the consequences of a copyright violation come in the form of civil penalties instead of criminal ones. With civil penalties, there is a specific process involved and penalties will only be assessed if the copyright holder goes through this process:
The court will decide what the damages are to the copyright owner and award those damages accordingly. The copyright owner can be entitled to both actual damages and statutory damages.
If the infringer proves that he did not realize that he was infringing on the copyright, the awards for the copyright owner will be much lower. However, it is up to the infringer to prove this, which can be a difficult process.
If the infringer is able to prove that he was completely unaware that the actions he took infringed on the copyright, the court cannot award the copyright owner any more than $200.
In most cases, the courts will not believe that the infringer had no idea that their actions were not legal and most likely the larger awards will be awarded to the copyright owner or owners. The courts may also make the infringer pay for all the court costs and attorneys fees for the copyright owner.
The penalties for copyright infringement can be steep. Be sure you have your work protected, that you look for the copyright symbol and that you don't accidentally use the copyrighted work of someone else.
When you download a song from the Internet that has been copyrighted, this is an example of copyright infringement.