What you should know about copyright infringement

Creators of original work may find it beneficial to copyright their work in order to protect it from copyright infringement.

Creators of original works, such as plays, musicals, art, novels, movies, computer software and literary works, may choose to obtain a copyright to protect their property. Once a work is created, it is automatically protected under a copyright. However, if people wish to pursue copyright infringement to further protect the authenticity of their work, they should register it with the U.S. Copyright Office.

The benefits of registration

Although copyrights do not have to be registered, there are many benefits of choosing to do so. Once a copyright is registered, the creative work is on pubic record and the creator is given a certificate of registration. If the registration process occurs within five years of publication, it often gives the artist certain advantages is a case is taken to a court of law. Finally, if a work is registered, it could be granted statutory damages if the case is successfully litigated in court.

What is copyright infringement?

When an original work is distributed, reproduced, performed, taken from or publically displayed without the knowledge or permission of the copyright holder, a person may be charged with copyright infringement. When infringement occurs, the copyright holder may be eligible for statutory damages under the Copyright Act. This makes it so the owner does not have to prove that there were actual damages because of the infringement.

Penalties of copyright infringement

While each case may vary depending on the unique circumstances involved in the case, damages may range from $750 to $30,000 for each case of infringement. The judge presiding over the case may also choose to award additional damages of up to $150,000 if the perpetrator willfully infringed upon the work or had a malicious intent in performing the act.

If the copyright owner does have actual damages, including loss of profits from the infringement, he or she may collect compensation for that as well. When the copyright infringer makes more than $2,500 selling at least 10 copies of the work within a 180-day period, it may be considered a felony. The infringer may receive up to five years in prison, as well as a fine of up to $250,000.

Finding legal help

Whether you are a victim of copyright infringement or you wish to register your copyright in order to gain better protection from possible infringers, you may want to speak with an attorney who has experience in business law. An attorney may be helpful in answering your questions and pointing you in the right direction when it comes to protecting your intellectual property.