Under general copyright law, if an original work has been copyrighted, the owner of that work has the exclusive right to use, publish, disseminate, or change that work for a certain amount of time. Another person or entity cannot use or distribute the work without the owner’s permission. If a person attempts to use or distribute the work without authorization, he or she may be found guilty of copyright infringement. This general copyright principle extends to works created or posted on the Internet. Internet copyright infringement occurs when a person or entity uses or circulates information over the Internet without authorization from the entity or person who has the exclusive, legal right to that information.
Internet copyright infringement is a form of intellectual property theft, and it can lead to significant legal penalties and security issues. Common Internet copyright violations include illegally downloading music files and movies as well as pirating certain types of software applications. Posting a copyrighted work, such as a drawing or writing, online without permission from the owner may also constitute Internet copyright infringement.
Online copyright infringement can result in a range of legal problems for unauthorized users. Typically, the penalties for Internet copyright infringement vary based on the severity of the crime. People found guilty of lesser types of infringement, such as illegally downloading a couple of music files, may simply be fined. Greater violations, however, can lead to jail time.
People who participate in illegal Internet downloading can inadvertently put their computer security systems at risk. Computer hackers often capitalize on web sites that provide users with the ability to illegally download music, videos, and software. Some hackers purposely infect the files on these sites with harmful codes that can be difficult to uncover and eliminate. An Internet user’s computer may become infected when one of these contaminated files is downloaded on it.