Copyrights give authors and other artists the sole right to publish and sell their work. Generally, copyrights remain effective for the term of the holder’s life unless he or she chooses to sell or grant the rights that accompany it to someone else. When a person or entity uses a copyrighted work without permission, they face potential charges of copyright infringement, which can lead to hefty fines and jail time, so if you have been accused of copyright infringement, it is important to speak with an experienced white collar crime attorney who can help you formulate a defense.
Only the creators of certain artistic works are eligible to receive a copyright. Although originally only printed texts received copyrights, the law has broadened to cover a wider range of artistic expression, including:
- Computer programs;
- Musical compositions;
- Sculptural works;
- Motion pictures;
- Sound recordings;
- Song lyrics;
- Graphic and pictorial works; and
- Architectural works.
Federal copyright law gives the owners of these types of artistic works certain exclusive rights, including the right to:
- Reproduce the work;
- Distribute the work;
- Create derivative works;
- Publicly perform the work;
- Display the work publicly; and
- Perform sound recordings via digital audio transmission.
What Qualifies as Copyright Infringement?
Anyone accused of violating these rights can be charged with copyright infringement, which requires a showing that the infringement was committed:
- For the purpose of furthering a commercial advantage or for financial gain;
- By the distribution or reproduction of a copyrighted work during a 180 day period, if the total retail value of the copies was at least $1,000; or
- By distributing a work that was being prepared for commercial sale by making it available to the public via the internet, as long as the accused knew or should have known that the work was intended to be sold.
A prosecutor will not be able to obtain a conviction by merely presenting evidence that the copyrighted work was reproduced. Instead, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant actually copied someone else’s work and that the copying constituted an improper appropriation. Establishing that someone copied a work requires the presentation of direct evidence, which could include:
- Witness testimony;
- The defendant’s own admission or confession; or
- Photos or video recordings of the defendant copying the work.
When this type of evidence is not available, the prosecutor will need to demonstrate that:
The defendant had access to the creator’s work; and
There are probative similarities between the two works.
The penalties for copyright infringement can be severe and include fines of up to $10,000 and a one year prison sentence.
Contact an Experienced Florida White Collar Crime Attorney Today
If you are a resident of south Florida and are being investigated for copyright infringement, please call Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. Criminal Defense Attorneys at 305-670-9919 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced white collar crime attorney who can evaluate your case and explain your legal options. You can also reach a member of our legal team by sending us a message containing a brief description of your case as well as your contact information.