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Definition of Infringement

Copyright infringement is the violation of any exclusive right held by the copyright owner. Infringement may be intentional or unintentional. Often called “innocent infringement,” unintentional infringement occurs when an author creates an ostensibly new work that later proves to be a mere reproduction of an existing work, though the author was unaware of the identity between the two at the time the copy was made. For example, former Beatle musician George Harrison was guilty of innocent infringement when he released the song “My Sweet Lord,” which a court found was the same song as the Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine,” only with different words. The court said that Harrison had “subconsciously” borrowed the Chiffons’ unique motif (see Bright Tunes Music Corp. v. Harrisongs Music, Ltd., [S.D.N.Y. 1976]).

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