What constitutes copyright infringement?

Residents in Louisiana may be familiar with the copyright symbol, which is a small letter ‘c’ in a circle. It denotes that a work has been copyrighted and provides the owner of the copyright with certain rights that protect the copyrighted work. A potential violation of those rights may constitute copyright infringement, which is considered a white collar crime.

Once a person possesses a copyright, he or she has exclusive rights to that particular work and variations on that work. This means that a copyright owner can reproduce the work or display the work publicly. The owner may perform the work publicly, if it is the type of work that may be performed, which for sound recordings means through a method of digital audio transmission.

In addition, the copyright owner can sell copies of the work to the public or prepare and distribute derivative copies stemming from the work. This may include dramatizations or other modifications of the original work. Generally, the copyright owner has the exclusive right to use the copyrighted work in these iterations.

Therefore, a person who has allegedly infringed on another’s copyrighted work, has violated one of these exclusive rights. Given the variety of rights that a copyright owner has, an alleged copyright infringement can take on a number of forms.

It should be noted, however, that a copyright owner does not possess all rights over every possible permutation of a copyrighted work. Certain uses of copyrighted work by those other than the owner of the copyright is legal. Use that is deemed to be “fair use,” such as that for purposes of teaching, reporting, criticism or other comment, is permissible. Additionally, there are exceptions provided for use by libraries and other performances, as well as other permitted uses.

If you are facing investigation for copyright infringement or have questions regarding this particular crime, it may be beneficial to seek the advice about your rights and available defense options. This could prevent or reduce the potential penalties you might face.

Source: copyright.gov, “I found someone infringing a copyrighted work that I registered. Can the Copyright Office help me stop this?” accessed July 31, 2015

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