The U.S. Department of Justice aggressively pursues criminal charges against individuals and businesses that unlawfully reproduce, distribute, or display works belonging to another person or entity for the purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain.
To convict an individual or business of criminal copyright infringement, the government must prove that a valid copyright existed, that the defendant willfully infringed upon it, and that the reason behind the defendant’s infringement was the pursuit of commercial advantage or private gain. Copyrighted products encompass a wide range of items, including computer software, jewelry, shoes, movies, and music.
What Is “Commercial Advantage” Under Criminal Infringement Laws?
The U.S. Copyright Act defines commercial advantage/financial gain broadly to include “receipt, or expectation of receipt, of anything of value, including the receipt of other copyrighted works.” Although various federal laws, such as the No Electronic Theft Act (NET Act) impose civil penalties on individuals who distribute, share, or upload copyrighted materials, such as songs, an infringer must actually profit – or hope to profit – from the infringement for it to rise to the level of criminal copyright infringement.
The federal government has steadily increased the penalties for criminal copyright infringement over the years. It has also broadened the category of activities that constitute criminal infringement. Individuals or businesses may be charged with a criminal misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances of the case. The same infringing activity can result in both civil charges and criminal liability. Penalties for willful criminal copyright infringement under the Copyright Act include a maximum five-year prison sentence and fines up to $250,000 for each offense.
If you have been charged with violating criminal copyright laws for conduct in which you received no financial benefit, it is important to have an attorney evaluate whether the absence of financial gain may be a viable defense strategy to obtain the most lenient sentence possible in your case.
Indiana Criminal Defense Lawyer
Copyright infringement is a serious criminal charge. If you are facing prosecution for this type of crime, your entire future is at stake. Call Razumich Law, P.C. today at 317-989-1129 for a free consultation.