An individual or business owner who obtains a copyright seeks to obtain protection for what is known as ‘intellectual property.’ Copyright protection is provided to things such as photographs, paintings, literary works, software and movies that are deemed to be original works of authorship. When an individual has a copyright, such legal protection is designed to provide the copyright owner with certain legal rights in Louisiana and nationwide.
In the event a copyright owner’s rights are purportedly infringed upon, an alleged perpetrator may be accused of the crime of copyright infringement. To constitute a federal crime, copyright infringement must be willful and must meet additional statutory requirements. Specifically, an infringement of a copyright must have occurred with the purpose of obtaining either private financial gain or commercial advantage. Furthermore, criminal copyright infringement occurs by either distribution or reproduction of at least one copy of a copyrighted work when the total retail value is $1,000 or more, or when an individual distributes a work by computer network to the public if he or she should have known or did, in fact, know that the work was designed for commercial distribution.
To prove that an individual has willfully infringed upon another’s copyright, prosecutors must provide evidence of more than simply the distribution or reproduction of a copyrighted work. In other words, prosecutors must be able to establish, pursuant to statutory requirements, that an individual was seeking to obtain some sort of financial gain or commercial advantage.
The crime of copyright infringement is a complex white collar crime, and cases are seldom clear-cut. An individual who has been charged with copyright infringement may benefit from obtaining legal counsel to protect his or her rights. A conviction can result in a lengthy prison sentence.
Source: Cornell University Law School, “17 U.S. Code Sec. 506,” accessed Oct. 16, 2016