Remedies for Copyright Infringement
A copyright infringer may be subject to both civil remedies and criminal sanctions. If the copyright holder wishes to seek monetary damages and profits, attorneys’ fees, and/or an injunction, the copyright holder can initiate a lawsuit in federal court against the alleged infringer. If an infringement is willful and “for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain,” or the infringement involves the willing reproduction or distribution of multiple copies with a value of more than $1,000 during a 180-day period, then the federal government may choose to bring a criminal copyright infringement case against the infringer.
The various remedies for copyright infringement are available to copyright owners and explained in detail below.
A copyright owner may seek a preliminary or permanent injunction to prevent or restrain future or ongoing infringement. Courts generally grant permanent injunctions where liability is established and there is a threat of continuing infringement.
Impoundment and Destruction
Courts may order the impounding of infringing goods at any time an action is pending. As part of a final judgment, the court may also order the destruction or any other reasonable disposition of the infringing goods.
At any time before final judgment is rendered, a copyright owner may elect to recover actual damages and profits of the infringer or statutory damages (i.e., damages determined by the statute, here the Copyright Act). Actual damages may be awarded in the amount of the copyright owner’s losses plus any profits of the infringer attributable to the infringement. Statutory damages may be awarded in an amount between $200 to $150,000 per work infringed, with the former available only for innocent infringers and the later available in cases of willful infringement. Statutory damages are only available to copyright owners who have registered their copyrights prior to infringement.
Court Costs and Attorneys Fees
Courts have discretion to allow the recovery of full court costs by or against any party, including the awarding of reasonable attorney’s fees to the prevailing party under certain circumstances. However, plaintiff copyright owners cannot be awarded costs and attorneys’ fees unless they have timely registered their works with the U.S. Copyright Office.
If an infringement is willful and “for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain,” or the infringement involves the willing reproduction or distribution of multiple copies with a value of more than $1,000 during a 180-day period, then the alleged infringer may be indicted by a federal grand jury and tried for criminal copyright infringement. If found guilty, the infringer may be imprisoned for up to five years and fined up to $250,000.
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