Copyright Acts of Infringement: What Creators Need to Know

As a creator, protecting the exclusive rights granted to your work is essential, particularly in a world where copyright infringement is on the rise.

Whether you’re an artist, writer, or content creator who utilizes copyrighted material for your content, understanding the complexities of copyright infringement in federal law is critical for safeguarding your work. 

This article will discuss different acts of copyright infringement in the US, outline potential consequences, and provide insights on how to address and remedy such situations.

  • Copyright infringement acts refer to actions that violate the exclusive rights of a copyright owner.
  • Engaging in copyright infringement in the United States can lead to severe consequences that can be both financially and legally significant.
  • Legal remedies exist to address and rectify copyright infringement violation

What are the Copyright Infringement Acts?

Copyright infringement acts are those that violate the rights of a copyright owner, such as unauthorized reproduction, distribution, or public performance of copyrighted material. Engaging in these acts, which are prohibited under copyright law, should not be taken lightly, as the consequences may carry significant legal weight.

Distribution of copyrighted material without proper authorization, whether through physical copies or digital means, is another form of infringement. The display of copyrighted material without permission, such as playing music in public or streaming videos, is also considered an infringement.

Creating derivative works or adaptations of copyrighted material without permission, and presenting someone else’s work as one’s own without proper attribution or permission, are additional forms of copyright infringement.

In the digital age, unauthorized downloading, uploading, or sharing of copyrighted content online without consent is a prevalent type of infringement.

Engaging in public performances, such as concerts or live shows, without obtaining the necessary licenses for copyrighted material can lead to infringement claims. It’s important to note that the specific acts constituting infringement may vary based on jurisdiction and the details of copyright law in a particular country.

To avoid copyright infringement in federal court, obtaining proper permissions or licenses for the use of copyrighted material and respecting the exclusive rights granted to copyright owners is essential.

What is Protected by the Copyright Act?

The Copyright Act protects original works of authorship, including literary, artistic, musical, and other creative expressions fixed in a tangible medium of expression. This includes a wide range of creative works, granting exclusive rights to the creators and copyright owners.

The Copyright Act, both in the US and in various international contexts, protects a diverse array of original works. 

These works include literary works such as books, articles, and poems, as well as artistic works like paintings, drawings, and sculptures. Musical compositions, including both the written score and recorded performances, also fall under copyright protection.

Beyond traditional forms of creativity, the Copyright Act extends its protection to a host of other works.

This includes architectural designs, computer software, and choreographic works. Additionally, the Act covers original creations in the realms of photography, films, and sound recordings.

It’s important to note that copyright protection arises automatically upon the creation of a qualifying work. Registration with a copyright office is not a protection prerequisite, although it does confer additional legal benefits.

The Copyright Act grants the creator or copyright owner exclusive rights, such as the right to reproduce, distribute, perform, and display the work. These exclusive rights enable creators to control the use of their creations and provide the legal foundation for negotiating licenses and permissions.

Understanding what is protected by the Copyright Act is essential for both creators and users of creative works. Creators benefit from knowing the extent of their rights, while users can handle the legal landscape more effectively by respecting the protected status of copyrighted material.

Consequences of Committing Infringement Under Copyright Acts

Graphic representation of balancing creativity and legal consequences in copyright law.

Violating the copyright infringement code can lead to severe consequences and these consequences can be both financially and legally significant. Understanding and respecting copyright laws are important to avoiding these potential repercussions.

Consequences of infringing primarily fall into two categories: civil penalties and criminal penalties.

1. Civil Penalties

Copyright owners can pursue civil remedies against infringers through lawsuits. In civil cases, the court may award financial damages to the copyright owner.

Damages can be either the actual losses suffered by the copyright owner or statutory damages, which can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars per infringement. The prospect of facing financial liability highlights the seriousness of copyright infringement charges.

2. Criminal Penalties

In more serious cases, copyright infringement can result in criminal charges. Law enforcement may bring criminal cases against individuals or entities involved in willful and intentional copyright violations.

Criminal penalties may include substantial fines and, in extreme cases, imprisonment. The severity of criminal consequences serves as a deterrent, emphasizing the legal system’s commitment to protecting intellectual property rights.

How Do You Remedy Acts of Copyright Infringement?

Legal remedies exist to address and rectify copyright infringement violations. Understanding these legal avenues becomes important not only for creators but also for those who intend to use copyrighted material.

Let’s explore these remedies in detail.

1. Impounding and Disposition of Infringing Articles

One effective remedy involves the impounding and disposition of infringing articles. Courts have the power to take action against these unauthorized copies by ordering their seizure and removal, stopping their unauthorized distribution.

The important part of this remedy is deciding how to handle or dispose of these confiscated articles, aiming to prevent any leftover copies from reappearing. This step is important for reducing ongoing infringement risks and protecting the copyright owner’s rights, ensuring the unauthorized dissemination of the creative work is fully stopped.

2. Securing Compensation Through Damages and Profits

This avenue aims to address the financial harm caused to the copyright owner due to unauthorized use of their creative work.

When pursuing damages, the basis of calculation is rooted in compensating the copyright owner for the actual losses incurred due to the infringement. This involves a careful examination of various factors to determine the financial impact on the copyright owner.

One primary aspect involves assessing the direct financial setbacks experienced by the copyright owner. This includes evaluating lost sales, revenue, or other monetary losses directly linked to the unauthorized use of their creative work.

Determining the market value of the infringed material is another factor. This means assessing the economic worth of the copyrighted work and estimating the impact of unauthorized use on its overall value.

If the infringing party had obtained a license to use the copyrighted material, the damages may be computed based on what the infringer would have paid in licensing fees. This provides a benchmark for determining the economic value of the unauthorized use.

In some instances, copyright owners may opt for statutory damages, which are predetermined amounts established by copyright law. These statutory damages serve as a standardized measure to simplify the calculation process, particularly when proving the exact financial harm is challenging.

Statutory damages can vary depending on factors such as if the infringement was committed willfully and the number of infringed works.

3. Covering Legal and Related Costs

This remedy serves multiple purposes, intending to discourage frivolous lawsuits, encourage copyright protection, and ensure that creators can defend their intellectual property rights without facing undue financial strain.

Allowing recovery of legal and related costs discourages baseless lawsuits. If unsuccessful, those filing unfounded legal actions may have to cover these expenses, reducing the likelihood of pursuing frivolous claims.

This discouragement helps uphold the legal system’s integrity, emphasizing valid copyright disputes and preventing misuse of legal processes.

One of the primary objectives of this remedy is to offset the financial burden borne by the copyright owner during legal proceedings.

Engaging in litigation to protect copyright can be costly, involving legal fees, court expenses, and related costs. Letting creators recover these costs ensures that smaller creators aren’t discouraged from taking legal action against copyright infringement because of financial limitations.

The legal system helps creators by allowing them to recover legal costs and supporting copyright enforcement. This balance ensures that creators and potential infringers understand that copyright is a protected right, and the legal system is dedicated to aiding its enforcement.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the Copyright Act of 1976 do?

The Copyright Act of 1976 establishes and governs copyright law in the United States, outlining the rights and protections granted to creators of original works.

What are the available defenses against copyright infringement?

Common defenses include fair use, lack of originality, and the expiration of copyright. Each defense depends on the specific circumstances of the case.

How do you avoid committing the act of copyright infringement?

Avoid infringing by obtaining proper permissions, using works within the bounds of fair use, or creating original content. 

How do you respond to allegations of copyright infringement acts?

Seek legal advice, assess the validity of the claim, and respond appropriately. This may involve providing evidence of legal use, negotiating a settlement, or defending against unfounded claims.

What are the three core items that need to be proven in a copyright infringement case?

To establish copyright infringement, one must prove ownership of the copyrighted work, copying of the work by the alleged infringer, and substantial similarity between the original and copied elements.

Rae Marie Manar
Rae Marie Manar is a licensed lawyer with a Juris Doctor degree, specializing in copyright, data privacy, and intellectual law. With a wealth of education and expertise, she aids clients in going through the intricacies of these laws, guiding them through the legalities, processes, and requirements tailored to their personal and business needs.