Copyright Infringement

Updated on March 21, 2024
Article byPallabi Banerjee
Edited byPallabi Banerjee
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Copyright infringement occurs when a third party tries to use copyright-protected material without the creator’s permission. The material may be music, software, movies, or work related to literature. If a work is copyright-protected, no one else has the right to use or modify the work except the creator.

Copyright Infringement

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According to the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, all creative works are protected against copying. But despite federal law, infringement still occurs. However, a copyright holder can appeal for specific technological or legal steps to ensure no infringement. However, some provisions are always kept for supporting a lawsuit in case of violation.

Key Takeaways

  • Copyright infringement cases occur when a third party illegally tries to use or modify a copyright-protected work.
  • The work may be related to music, literature, software, movies, etc., which no one else can use without the creator’s permission if it has a copyright.
  • The U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 ensures that all works of art are protected from duplication or modification without the original creator’s permission.
  • A copyright holder can appeal for legal protection to prevent copyright infringement, but still, such cases occur.

Copyright infringement occurs when a third party tries to use an artwork or invention protected from copying. Despite having the copyright infringement law, that is, the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, in place, breaches occur, which might be intentional or unintentional.

Copyright is a method to protect intellectual property so that only the owner can assert the right to use or modify it. The work gets legal protection permission for a specific period to prevent such a situation. Thus, no other than the original creator can publish, distribute, modify or display it with or without a profit-making intention.

But in case of copyright invasion, the owner can use the authority to take legal action against the person or the group to stop intellectual property misuse.

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There are various types of copyright infringement cases that can happen, as follows:

  1. Illegal music file download – Sometimes, people download music files illegally, which is protected from copying.
  2. Illegal software download – Some licensed software is downloaded illegally from unauthorized websites.
  3. Using logos or images with copyright – Some merchandise may use a logo or an image of a copyright-protected product.
  4. Recording a movie, show, or broadcast – To record a show or movie while being played to watch it later amounts to infringement.
  5. Copying and using a copyrighted video – Using someone else’s created song or video is illegal without permission.
  6. Upload copyrighted content on web pages – Uploading protected content on easily accessible websites is also illegal.
  7. Modifying protected images – Some images or logos may be protected against copying. Therefore, it is against the law to copy, modify or use them.
  8. Importing copyright-protected artwork– It is illegal to import protected artwork.


People or groups who violate copyright laws have to face inevitable consequences as given below:

  1. Monetary damage payment – A person or group who violates the copyright is liable to pay damages or penalties in financial terms to compensate for the loss.
  2. Putting injunction – Sometimes injunctions prevent any additional copyright violation.
  3. Seizing materials – The merchandise or product which violates copyright may be seized and taken away as penalties for copyright infringement.
  4. Legal fee compensation – The owner may get paid for the fees paid for legal action.
  5. Imprisonment – Illegally copying protected material can also lead to imprisonment.


There are some exceptions to copyright infringement law which are given below:

  1. Deal with copyright material fairly – If dealing with copyrighted material, except for computer programs, is done fairly, like it is used for personal purposes, research, writing a review, or reporting current events, then it is not a breach.
  2. Copies made by a legal possessor– If a person is legally entitled to possess a reproduction of copyrighted material and uses it to make adaptations or copies for the correct purpose or as a backup for losses, it is not a violation.
  3. Making copies by legally obtaining right – if someone obtains the legal right to make computer program copies or test computer functions using the program, it is not a violation.
  4. Storing artwork electronically – If any artwork is stored electronically for public communication, it is not a copyright infringement.
  5. Providing access not prohibited – If someone allows access to a work that the right holder has not banned, it is not a breach.
  6. Coping for legal proceedings – If any copy is made to meet the necessary legal needs, then there is no breach.
  7. Reproduction of work for legislative purposes – A work can be reproduced to meet legislative needs.
  8. Recitation or reading in public – Any artwork can be recited publicly at an event and does not amount to penalties for copyright infringement.
  9. Reproduction of work to meet the temporary legal need – Sometimes, the artwork is used to meet a legal requirement.
  10. Request permission from the owner – Using copyrighted material does not amount to a breach if the owner permits the same.
  11. Using a little part of the original – If a bit of part of the original copyrighted material is used for any purpose, it is not a violation.
  12. Use of work for educational purposes – Any work of art, literature, or invention that is copyrighted can be used for educational purposes and does not result in a copyright infringement notice.


Let us explain copyright infringement with some examples.

Example #1

John, a software expert, has developed a software program that helps computers detect when someone other than the user is using the computer. The new user must register and complete a form with face and fingerprint identification even though they know the computer password, which ensures that no unauthorized person accesses the computer.

This software has received a copyright, so no one other than John can modify it. It is available in the market at a high price and is in high demand in the corporate world. However, one company Techworld Inc. has been using it for some time and tried to make changes per their business requirement without informing John. However, John used infringement software and detected the violation. He immediately gave a copyright infringement notice to Techworld Inc. through his lawyer. The company had to pay him $150,000 as the damage for willful breach.

Example #2

Singer Ed Sheeran is facing court charges brought by two songwriters, Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue, stating that the famous singer has taken some lines and words from the song “Oh, Why” written by them and used them in his song “Shape Of You”.

But Ed Sheeran has denied any such allegations of copyright infringement. Nevertheless, the song “Shape Of You” topped the list for many weeks in the U.K. and globally.

Example #3

Many movie producers share the copyright for films like “Rambo V” and have filed a case for copyright breach against RCN Telecom Services LLC. However, the company should have stopped various internet users from pirating movies using BitTorrent networks.

The piracy has resulted in huge losses, which need to stop immediately. In addition, the company faces legal charges for not making enough effort to prevent the violation.

How To Avoid?

It is possible to avoid copyright infringement through the following ways:

  1. First, increase public awareness – It is essential to raise awareness about piracy and knowledge about intellectual property (IP) laws.
  2. Update protection rights – It is necessary to protect policies and update them regularly to remain at par with various new rules and regulations issues in the changing environment.
  3. Intellectual property law enforcement –It is vital to enforce IP laws to avoid any problems.
  4. Increase awareness of licensed software usage – There should be public awareness about the importance of licensed software, which is legal and, thus, authentic.
  5. Watermarking – It is marking the products with a code so that it is possible to detect any pirated materials.
  6. Encrypting software storage It is crucial to encrypt the software or movie storage places properly.
  7. Avoid using someone else’s creation – It is always best to avoid using someone else’s invention.

Copyright infringement is the method of copying or using a piece of work, or technological innovation whose right to use or modify is legally protected. Plagiarism is representing someone else’s thoughts or ideas as one’s own without the owner’s acknowledgment. Fair use is an exception to U.S. law that permits limited usage of copyrighted material without the owner’s permission. However, they are different from each other in the following ways:

Copyright InfringementPlagiarismFair Use
The use or modification of someone else’s work is legally protected.It is copying or passing someone else’s work as one’s own.It is an exception for limited use of someone else’s work.
It has legal consequences.It has ethical consequences.There are no legal or ethical consequences.
Giving credit to the original owner does not make it legal.Giving credit to the original owner and rephrasing the original idea can be done.There is no issue related to giving the owner any credit.
The work has to be copyrighted.The work may or may not be a copyrighted one.There is no copyright violation.
It may be writing, music, software, movie, content on a website, etc.It is usually a piece of writing.It may be writing, music, software, etc.
The product market is harmed.The product market is not harmed.The product market is not harmed.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)  

1. How to report copyright infringement?

There are a few steps to prove that there is infringement. First, it is necessary to establish copyright for the I.P. Next; there should be proof that a violation has occurred and that the individual or group has access to the I.P. After that, there should be facts showing that the violated work is identical to the original. Thus, the owner will send a copyright infringement notice and take legal steps to prevent it.

2. How to avoid copyright infringement on Facebook videos?

The video owner’s permission is necessary to avoid copyright infringement on Facebook videos. Every video posted on Facebook is pre-scanned, the ones with infringement issues are not published, and the violator gets a notice or warning.  

3. Is copyright infringement a crime?

It is a crime because copyright means no one can use or modify the content without the owner’s permission. Only the owner can do it, and the I.P. is legally protected through copyright. Thus, the violator will get a notice and will face legal consequences.

This has been a guide to Copyright Infringement & its meaning. We explain its types, consequences, exceptions, examples, and differences with plagiarism. You can learn more about it from the following articles –

Reader Interactions


  1. Williams Akoto says

    Justice my be done against infringement

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