What Is Meant By Copyright Infringement In The US?


Copyright just like every other intellectual property right comes under intellectual property law in the US. As a creator of creative works you may opt to copyright your work on the date of creation to keep others from illegal use of your artworks without compensating you. Just like that time when a work is used without having permission of the owner or without giving your source, it is called an infringement of copyright. This article typically introduces itself as how copyright infringement is defined and criteria to be considered before classifying it as an infringement. 

What is Copyright Infringement?

If you use or produce copyrighted materials with the permission of the copyright owner.  Then you are prone to commit the crime of infringement of the copyright. Like creative rights, coupled with privacy it is crucial too that there is no infringement of copyright which is a situation where someone else has already used the rights given to the owner. 

An example is when the owner is only allowed to use the creative work for a period of time and therefore reasonably encroaches on the right to use the work of others. On the other hand, companies that are not seeking authorisation would exceed the exercise of copyright. Such actions, called copyright infringement, can lead to legal difficulties. 

The most prevalent infringement of copyright from movies and music are the two leading kinds of works to be affected. Typically, the development of cases on copyright infringements results in uncertainty that may later on turn into lawsuits.  

Organizations and individuals who are known to create or develop new works tend to register for copyright protection. Generally, this is done to gain profit from the work they have created or developed.  

Moreover, copyright registration also acts as a protection of the work. This means that if any other party is seeking to use or produce that work, they’ll need the consent of the original owners. Similarly, the process of granting access to other parties to make use of the work is known as licensing arrangements.  

However, there are various factors that lead to the occurrence of copyright infringement. One of the common factors is the high price for purchasing the authorized work. Another being lack of access in supply of the authorized work.  

In 2021, the United States Copyright Office received copyright registrations worth 403,000. Literary works, arts, music, and visual arts are the works that have been registered with copyright. Moreover, the Office also generated a profit of $34 million due to registration alone.  

Generally, the Copyright Office does not prosecute parties who have violated copyright law. However, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) will prosecute if necessary legal documents and a lawsuit has been filed.  

If you’re a plaintiff bringing a copyright infringement, then the primary thing you must prove is “ownership of copyright”. This means, you have to prove in court that your original content has been copied or violated your rights in some way by a third party/parties without your permission.  

Moreover, the proof of copying is generally achieved through presentation of circumstantial evidence. Generally, you have to prove that the defendant had access to your original work, and there is presence of substantial similarity in both works.  

Further, the court shall determine the substantial similarity through observation of your and the defendant’s work. These observations include observing the formats, appearance, sound or words, and sequence of presentation.  

However, you being an owner do not require to put a notice on your work or register with the Copyright Office, as taking these steps in appropriate time can benefit you in establishing a copyright infringement case further.  

Is Copyright infringement Illegal in the United States?

Copyright infringement is indeed an illegal act. Generally, the act of infringing a copyright fall under civil issue rather than a criminal offense. However, penalties for copyright infringement generally includes a fine and/or payment to the injured party.  

If you’re a copyright holder then you can recover actual damages and the profits gained by the infringer, if you prove copyright infringement. Moreover, actual damages are measured in accordance with “lost market value” during the time of copyright infringement.  

During the establishment of profit, you as a copyright holder must prove the gross revenue earned by the infringer. Similarly, the infringer will also have to prove the deductible expenses and factors of profit. Similarly, they are generally attributed to elements other than the original work.  

Contrary to this, you may choose to start the suit before the trial for the recovery of statutory damages that range from $750 to $30,000 based on the judgment by the court since the trial. 

In addition, if your work was registered with the Copyright Office within 3 months of its publication or before the infringement you can claim statutory damages and attorney’s fees without having to prove the actual losses. On the same note, variable damages separate from actual damages will be given to those who for a fact knew that your work falls under “fair use doctrine”. 

Criminal Sanctions For Infringement Of Copyright Laws

A criminal penalty becomes possible as well once you succeed in proving the copyright infringement was wilful. In this way, if the court decides the infringement was done with the knowledge of the copyrighted work, then the complainant is allowed to collect statutory damages up to $150,000. 

Nevertheless, in case of ignorance of an infringement, a verdict of the court may come with discretion lower than $200 in damages. 

Issues Related to Copyright Infringement

The issues associated with copyright infringement have varied over decades. But with rapid advancement of technology, the Copyright Office is facing an increased number of issues with the intention to keep up with the pace of innovation. Here are some copyright infringement issues generally observed mentioned below.  

Advancement in Technology

Innovation in technology has made it easier for individuals to easily copy a product or information. Moreover, there are many organizations who tend to earn a substantial amount of revenue through generation of products or services through replication from others.  

In response to this, the Copyright Office has established the Copyright Modernization Office in 2018. This branch is given the duty to coordinate IT modernization projects. Moreover, with the common goal of innovating the Copyright Office and the Library of Congress.  

International Issues

Laws related to copyright and copyright infringements tend to vary from one nation to another. Along with the presence of different processes and amounts of protection. Similarly, within an international background, you might face difficulty in proving ownership of copyright. On the other hand, domestic courts might observe the enforcement of copyright claims from foreign organizations as a threat to national productivity.  

International organizations like the European Union tend to keep copyright regulations and enforcement guidelines of its member states in a harmonized manner to restrict legal clash.  

Photography and Visual Assets 

With innovations in digital imagery, it has become easier than before to copy an image. Within the past few years, the Copyright Office has been made aware of the various copyright issues through testimonials from graphic designers, illustrators, and photographers.  

Non-Economic Rights

Every copyright infringement does not lead to loss of capital. In intellectual property, moral rights are also enforced. Author’s right to be identified as the author of a work which is also known as the right of attribution.  

Moreover, authors also tend to look out for the prevention of change. Or distortions within their work, known as the right of integrity.  

The Internet

Growing dependence on the internet has resulted in creation of new hurdles for copyright owners. As it has become easier for copyrighted works to be accessed by organizations across the globe. Moreover, this is leading to creation and innovation of new technologies. Moreover, that has outpaced the regulation’s capacity to assure that copyrights are applicable within new formats.  


It is critical that we should have a steady grasp of how copyright infringement works and how it determines the life of every individual and business in their everyday actions. In other words, copyright infringements are all about unapproved use or reproduction of other people’s intellectual property and it may be in form of music, videos, books or unique artwork. It’s a most serious offense but may lead to both legal and monetary consequences. 

 In order to prevent plagiarism, you must not forget to get acquainted with the terms of use of a certain piece of intellectual property before using it. This comprises including the small prints and getting the cognizance of the terms under which the job can be redistributed or reproduced. Not doing this might turn out to be quite a bad idea because a copyright infringement case could be launched, and this could result in serious financial consequences and might damage your reputation. 

Consequently, it’s of utmost importance to ask for permission or to stick to the ads rules before using another author’s work. Having done, so you can be sure you are not infringing intellectual rights and using the material lawfully and correctly.

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