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Understanding criminal copyright infringement

Many Californians may be familiar with copyright infringement. There are many ways in which a copyright can be infringed upon, but it defined as violating the exclusive rights of a copyright holder. This includes making duplicated of DVDs and CDs without authorization. Though some may remember the civil lawsuits that arose during Napster's heyday, few may realize that copyright infringement can actually be a serious criminal offense.

In order for copyright infringement to be considered criminal in nature, several factors must be satisfied. First, it must be proven that an accused individual willfully infringed upon the copyright, meaning the infringing act was intentional and carried out with knowledge of its illegality. Second, the purpose of the infringement must have been for financial gain, included the making of 1 or more copies of a copyrighted work with a retail value of over $1,000, or distributing a work via the internet when the infringer knew the copyrighted work was meant for commercial distribution.

Proving these elements can be extremely difficult for a prosecutor. Yet, if successful, a conviction can bring an accused individual significant prison time and hefty fines. These penalties can be life-altering, stripping an individual away from his or her family and perhaps leaving him or her financially unsteady.

Those who face allegations of having committed white collar crimes should thus take the matter seriously. Copyright is a richly developed, yet ever-changing area of law that requires the most up-to-date knowledge. Fortunately, those who find themselves accused of criminal copyright infringement can find a California attorney who possesses such knowledge and who will do everything he or she can to raise doubt as to the willfulness of the alleged offense.

Source: U.S. Copyright Office, "ยง506 Criminal Offenses," accessed on Oct. 12, 2014

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