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What is Piracy?


Intellectual property theft, or piracy, involves illegally taking the trade secrets or proprietary products of third parties. However, the advent of the internet has blurred the line between what constitutes theft and what is simply easier access to books, movies, and music, so it is not uncommon for defendants who are charged with piracy to have not even been aware that their conduct was unlawful. For help defending yourself against piracy or theft charges, please contact a federal crime attorney who can assist you.

Defining Piracy 

Most charges of intellectual property theft involve allegations of the unauthorized taking or copying of protected material, including music, books, and movies. This area of the law can be confusing because there are actually a number of different federal statutes that address piracy and prohibit a wide range of activities. For instance, the No Electronic Theft Act (NET) makes it unlawful to distribute materials, such as songs, video games, movies, and software without authorization. Unlike other similar laws, a person does not need to have gained a monetary benefit from the distribution to be prosecuted. However, whether a person can be charged with violating this statute depends on whether he or she:

  • Downloaded or uploaded content worth at least $1,000; or
  • Copied at least ten versions of copyrighted material over a 180 day period and upon distribution, made a profit of at least $2,500.

Unfortunately, even those who don’t fall under one of these categories can be charged with piracy if they are accused of any of the following acts:

  • Downloading unauthorized versions of copyrighted material from a file-sharing service;
  • Downloading or uploading copyrighted music on peer-to-peer networks;
  • Transferring copyrighted music using an instant messaging service;
  • Copying music using a mobile application or stream ripping software;
  • Reproducing copyrighted material without authorization; and
  • Unlawfully distributing or digitally transmitting copyrighted material.

It can often be difficult to differentiate what type of behavior is considered theft when it comes to online material. For instance, the law permits users to download and stream music from websites that have been authorized by the owners of the songs. Unfortunately, many websites that seem legitimate actually aren’t, which puts anyone who uses the sites at risk of prosecution. Similarly, the law doesn’t criminalize copying music onto Audio CD-R’s, digital tapes, and mini-discs, as royalties have already been paid on these products. However, it is still considered unlawful to copy music onto these mediums for commercial purposes. Those who are accused of this type of activity face felony charges, which are punishable by up to five years imprisonment and fines of $250,000.

Call Today for Help with Your Case 

If you have been accused of piracy or violating an intellectual property law, you need the advice of an experienced attorney. For help understanding and defending yourself against your own charges, please call dedicated Miami federal crime lawyer Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. at 305-670-9919. Initial consultations are conducted free of charge, so please don’t hesitate to call or contact us online.


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Miami Criminal Attorneys

9130 South Dadeland Blvd
Miami, Florida 33156

Telephone: 305-670-9919
Fax: 305-670-9299

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