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What are the Penalties for Copyright Infringement?

By Anna B. Smith
Updated Feb 17, 2024
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Penalties for copyright infringement include forfeiting any illegal copies of protected material to a court of law and paying damages to the owner of the copyright. These punishments are typically assigned by a judge during proceedings initiated by any individuals who believe their rights have been violated. Anyone believing they may have experienced copyright infringement should contact their local government copyright office to determine the best course of action to take to restore those rights.

The terms of a copyright may be infringed upon when an individual other than its owner copies or distributes the original work of another person without permission. The original work may be artistic, written, musical, or inventive in nature. Examples of copyrighted work include novels, symphonies, paintings, software, and different forms of technology.

The author, or creator, of an original work is automatically entitled to the copyright of it, once it is completed. That individual does not need to register his or her completed piece with the local government copyright office, though taking such steps does help insure that those rights are not infringed upon. The finished work is therefore protected from being distributed or reproduced in any way without the express permission of the author.

Copyrights may be violated in a variety of ways. If an individual suspects that his or her original work has been copied, or reproduced, illegally, that person should immediately seek action in a local court of law. It is often the duty of the court to determine whether penalties for copyright infringement should be assessed to accused parties because of the many forms this crime may take.

One of the typical first penalties for copyright infringement that a court may assign is the seizure and removal of all items that have reproduced the original work without the permission of its author. These items can include direct copies of the work as well as promotional and marketing items that bear the likeness of the work. The court can impound these copies during the duration of the trial, until it makes an official decision regarding their final disposal, which can result in their destruction.

The most costly of the penalties for copyright infringement is the final damages awarded to the author at the completion of the trial. If the court rules that copyrights were violated, then the one who committed the crime may be required to pay to the author, or holder of the copyright, an assessed sum of damages. These financial damages can include any loss of business the copyright holder experienced, any profit the violator gained through his or her illegal use, and any additional damages awarded at the court's discretion.

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