Copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed,
publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.
The copied work need not be identical to the original to infringe a copyright. The legal test of infringement is “substantial similarity” – whether an ordinary observer would recognize the work as having been copied in whole or in part from the earlier one.
Your Copyright Must be Registered
However, in order to take legal action against an act of infringement your copyright must be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. If you don’t register your copyright and someone else claims the work as
their own, you will have to somehow prove that it is actually yours. Copyright registration avoids this burden of proof.
A copyright owner may seek to protect his or her copyrights against unauthorized use by filing a civil lawsuit in federal district court. In cases of willful infringement for profit, the U.S. Attorney may
initiate a criminal investigation.
If Copyright Infringement is Proven
If proven that a copyright infringement has occurred, the owner of a registered copyright may be entitled to relief such as:
- Impounding and disposition of infringing articles.
- Attorney’s fees.
- Actual damages and profits of the infringing party.
- Statutory damages up to $150,000 if the infringement was committed willfully.
If you believe that your copyright has been infringed, consult a qualified attorney.