The Ins And Outs Of Copyright Infringement

All creative works, including poems, stories, songs, dances, paintings, photographs, and even intellectual works, are protected by copyright law. This means that the original author or artist has complete control over how their work is used.

In most cases, using copyrighted work requires the consent of the author or creator. Infringing on someone else's copyright could land you in legal hot water, with possible repercussions such as a large fine or even some jail time. Read on to discover the specifics of copyright infringement and how those laws affect you.

What Is Copyright Infringement?

Copyright Infringement is when someone uses another person's intellectual property (IP) without their authorization. The United States Copyright Office states that reproducing, distributing, performing, publicly displaying, or creating a derivative work of a copyrighted work without the owner's consent is strictly forbidden. Even if you didn't intend to or were unaware of stealing from the owner, you could still face legal consequences.

According to Section 51 of the Copyright Act, the following actions are a violation of the law:

  • The act of doing something that only the holder of the copyright is allowed to do without the owner's consent
  • Bringing in pirated versions of a work
  • Copying something without the owner's permission
  • Allowing the platform to be used for selling, distribution, communication, or exhibition of an infringing work even though it is illegal

Examples Of Copyright Infringement

Using songs from other sources without permission is a typical copyright infringement. You may violate copyright laws if you use a popular tune in your videos, business presentations, or other works without first obtaining the appropriate license.

We can see this law in action when videos are frequently flagged or muted on video-sharing services like YouTube and Facebook for copyright violations.

Some artists offer their creations for sale as digital downloads through their websites. But getting a film, TV show, song, piece of software, or electronic book from a site the creator doesn't own constitutes theft.

In most cases, you will be instantly prompted to distribute the same content to others when using these unofficial sites. Whether intentionally or not, you are now complicit in spreading copyrighted material.

4 Factors Courts Consider In A Copyright Infringement Case

It is common practice for a court to make a fair use finding during a lawsuit for copyright infringement. When copyright is violated, the plaintiff (the copyright owner) will file a lawsuit seeking damages (the defendant).

The defendant, at this point, can try to get out of responsibility for the infringement by citing the fair use concept. The Copyright Act of 1976 (section 107) provides the legal basis for this doctrine.

The Copyright Act contains the following four criteria to help judges make fair use determinations about:

  • What it is used for, whether for profit or not, and what form it will take are all factors to consider when determining fair use.
  • Specific nature of the copied work
  • The proportion of the copied material that was used
  • How doing the act would affect the work's commercial viability or worth.

How Are Damages Determined In A Copyright Infringement Case?

What factors would the court use to calculate how much money you should receive as compensation? Awarding monetary damages for copyright violations typically occurs under one of three legal bases.

Copyright litigation, like any other kind, takes a long time and costs a lot of money. A firm understanding of these three types of damages will help you assess your chances of a possible recovery as you work with a copyright attorney and file a lawsuit.

Actual Damages

Actual damages, also called compensatory damages, refer to the monetary value of any loss the copyright owner can prove they received directly from the infringing action.


Second, the offender may be required to pay back any financial gain they experienced due to the infringement. However, punitive damages are only awarded if they exceed the copyright holder's financial losses.

Statutory Damages

This refers to the monetary penalties established by statute. Statutory damages are available in the United States, but only to those who have registered their work with the U.S. Copyright Office before the infringement or if you registered within three months after publication.


Like other forms of intellectual property legislation, copyright law strikes a balance between authors' rights and the public's ability to access creative works without infringement.

However, this does not guarantee a satisfactory outcome to any copyright dispute. Policies like the DMCA's internet takedown procedures have come under fire for allegedly giving too much power to the claimant and being too easily manipulated.

But intellectual property protection, in whatever form it takes, is crucial for sustaining the financial and non-financial incentives that drive innovation and artistic thought. Understanding the mechanics of infringement is critical for any interaction with copyrighted material, and this is true whether you are a small-scale creative or a large corporation.

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