How Serious Are Copyright Laws?

Whether you’re a composer, software creator, writer, or artist, the work you create is your own and you should protect it. When you take the steps to copyright your work, you may wonder what could happen to someone who uses it without your permission. This is known as copyright infringement and there are penalties for those who break the rules, even if they do so unknowingly.

What to Know About Copyright Infringement

When work is covered and protected by copyright and then used without permission, it is copyright infringement. Copyrights are applied to creative materials such as writing, photography, or art.

Protected content requires permission to be used, reproduced, distributed, displayed, performed, or derived. It doesn’t matter if someone used this work accidentally or removed it immediately once they realized their mistake. Those who infringe on a copyright can face serious penalties.

What Penalties Are Imposed for Copyright Infringement?

Someone can face civil or criminal charges for copyright infringement. According to the law on copyright infringement, each work that is infringed upon can result in a fine of $200 to $150,000 if the infringer is found guilty.

The person who infringed on your copyright needs to pay the amount of damages and profits and all attorney’s fees and court costs. The court will also issue an injunction to stop the infringements immediately. On the criminal side of the law, jail time is possible, though it will depend on the specific offense. If the infringer is found guilty, they may face up to five years in prison.

Exceptions to the Rules of Copyright Laws

There is a doctrine for fair use that makes copyright laws and violations a little more complex. This doctrine allows for fair use of your copyrighted works for certain purposes. For teaching, news reporting, or discourse, using copyrighted works is not an infringement on your protection. Before you attempt to halt the distribution of your materials, make sure they aren’t being used in a way that counts as fair use.

What Should You Do If Someone Infringes on Your Copyrighted Materials?

Before taking the steps for litigation, you may be able to resolve these acts of infringement out of court. You should first contact the person to let them know that a copyright violation has been detected on your work. It may be a simple mistake, or they may try to claim they haven’t violated anything.

You will need to decide if you want them to take down your work or stop using it. You could also demand that they credit you as the creator. Your attorney can also assist by sending a cease and desist letter.

Once these possibilities are explored, you may then decide to take this to court. Protect yourself by working with copyright legal counsel to ensure your creations are covered. Your copyright attorney can also determine whether the laws protecting your copyright were infringed and offer sound advice on how to proceed. In the event of copyright infringement, you’ll have someone on your side to litigate in this situation.

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Posted - 10/30/2023