What Happens If You Break Copyright Laws?

Written by J. Hirby and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

<p>Creators of original literary, musical, artistic or intellectual works are entitled to protect them from use or copying by others under federal copyright laws. Breaking copyright laws is punishable by severe monetary penalties, seizure of items that violate a copyright, injunctions against continued violation or imprisonment.</p>
<p>The Purpose of Copyright Protection</p>
<p>Copyright laws protect the right of the creator of an original work to use, copy or otherwise control what the person created. The drafters of the U.S. Constitution authorized Congress to create laws to encourage people to create original works by giving them the right to control them for a limited period of time.</p>
<p>Protected Works</p>
<p>Copyright protection attaches to a work as soon as it is created in a tangible medium. For example, a speech that is in written form is protected under the copyright laws, but a speech that is neither written nor recorded is not protected. Types of protected works include:</p>
<ul>
<li>Literary and musical works</li>
<li>Plays</li>
<li>Pantomimes and choreographed works</li>
<li>Recordings</li>
<li>Movies and television shows</li>
<li>Computer software</li>
<li>Architectural drawings</li>
</ul>
<p>Ideas, methods, processes and procedures cannot be copyrighted. A list of ingredients constituting a recipe cannot be copyrighted, but the written instructions accompanying the list are protected under the copyright laws.</p>
<p>Length of Copyright Protection</p>
<p>The length of time a work is protected under the copyright laws depends upon when it was created. Works created after January 1, 1978 are protected for the life of the author plus 70 years. If the work is published anonymously, it is protected for the shorter of 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation.</p>
<p>The copyright protection given to works created prior to January 1, 1978 is computed under a complex set of rules created by the Copyright Act of 1976. Generally, the copyright protection was for 28 years with the holder of the copyright having the right to renew it.</p>
<p>Penalties for Breaking Copyright Laws</p>
<p>A person who breaks the copyright laws might be liable for civil penalties payable to the holder of the copyright. The penalties may include the payment of actual damages and profits to the copyright holder, attorney's fees and court expenses, and up to $30,000 in statutory damages for each work. Criminal penalties include imprisonment for up to five years and fines up to $250,000. Judges may also order the seizure of works that infringe on a copyright.</p>

More On This Topic



Comments are closed.