Penalty for Copyright Violation

Category: Business

Copyright law, along with other types of intellectual property rights law, has become increasingly strict as the U.S. government and corporations combat rising piracy rates in the courts. A single violation now carries a minimum damages reward of $750 and a maximum of $30,000.


  • Copyright protects the expression of ideas, specifically literary, musical, visual, architectural, cinematographic and dramatic works. Copyright gives the holder the exclusive right to use, reproduce or copy, distribute, promote, perform, sell, make derivative works of and translate the work for the duration of the author's life plus 50 to 70 years, depending on the type of work.


  • Copyright infringement or violation occurs when a person in any way uses another person's creative work without the permission of the copyright holder. Once a violation has been documented, the copyright holder can press charges. The copyright holder can press charges regardless of whether the infringement involved financial gain for the violator or was intentional.


  • Generally, copyright holders sue for damages, which can be lost licensing fees or lost profits. When the copyright violator is found guilty, the court orders him to pay the copyright holder's legal fees in addition to damages. According to Chapter Five, Article 504 of the U.S. Copyright Act, each infringement carries a minimum $750 and maximum $30,000 penalty, while willful infringement carries a maximum penalty of $150,000.

Criminal Offense

  • Infringement constitutes a criminal offense only when the violator makes money from the infringement, illegally distributes material for more than 180 days or makes material available where it may not have been (for example, pirated DVDs of a movie that is only legally available in theaters).


  • Many people prosecuted for copyright violation are tried for multiple violations. Penalties apply to each infringement, meaning each song downloaded or shared or each individual sample used in a remix. Each count carries minimum and maximum penalties.

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