What are the Different Methods of Copyright Enforcement?

Daphne Mallory

Copyright enforcement laws offer civil and criminal remedies for copyright infringement. Some commercial entities offer rewards to individuals who report copyright infringement, such as software piracy, and file civil lawsuits based on the information provided. Companies and private individuals can often seek two types of enforcement in national courts, which are injunctions and restraining orders. Governments often use copyright enforcement laws to try to deter copyright infringement, and enforcement includes imprisonment and fines. In some jurisdictions, such as in federal courts in the United States, a jail sentence due to a guilty verdict of copyright infringement can range from one to three years.

Laws offer criminal and civil remedies for copyright infringement, such as software piracy.
Laws offer criminal and civil remedies for copyright infringement, such as software piracy.

A creator of original work, known as the author, owns the copyrights to it. Registration of those copyrights often puts the public on notice of the creator’s exclusive right to reproduce it, distribute it, or make a derivative work from it. Whether or not the copyrights are registered, the individual who owns the copyrights can file a copyright infringement lawsuit when another company, government agency, or individual uses it without permission. The courts often have several remedies for copyright enforcement that the individual can take advantage of if he or she wins the case.

Making unauthorized copies of movies for friends is a form of copyright piracy.
Making unauthorized copies of movies for friends is a form of copyright piracy.

Injunctions are often used as copyright enforcement in copyright infringement cases brought by individuals and companies. An injunction is a court order that restrains the infringer from further use of the copyrighted material. A violation of an injunction is often considered contempt of court, and the court can pursue a number of penalties associated with it, including jail time. The injunction can also compel the defendant to do something, such as provide all copies in his possession of the copyrighted material or removing it from his website. A restraining order is similar in function to an injunction in that it stops the defendant from doing anything further with the copyrights, but a court could order a temporary one early on in the case until the case is decided.

Prosecutors can also file criminal copyright infringement cases on behalf of the governments they represent and pursue copyright enforcement remedies. A prosecutor often has to show that the defendant willfully used the copyrighted material without permission for commercial gain or to obtain something of value. Copyright enforcement laws in many jurisdictions state that a defendant may be sentenced to jail if she is found guilty. A judge may also fine the defendant instead of giving a jail sentence or do a combination of the two. The length of jail time ranges from one to three years, and it’s up to the judge’s discretion as well as the value of the copies made for commercial gain.

Penalties for copyright infringement may include jail time.
Penalties for copyright infringement may include jail time.

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