Criminal Liability

Prior to the Copyright Act of 1976 coming into effect, criminal sanctions were increasingly sought against record, tape, and film pirates.  Under the present law, the willful infringement of a copyright for commercial advantage or private financial gain is subject to fines and imprisonment.  The statute of limitations for criminal actions for copyright infringement is five years.

The crime of “record piracy” consisted of four elements:

•        The manufacture, use, or sale of a copyrighted sound recording;

•        An absence of authorization;

•        A willful intent; and

•        An intention to profit from this activity

Upon conviction, the court can order the forfeiture, destruction or other disposition of all infringing copies or phonorecords and all implements, devices, or equipment used for manufacturing such copies or phonorecords.  In addition, the injured party may submit a victim impact statement setting forth the extent and scope of the injury and loss suffered, including an estimate of economic impact on the victim.

Fine, imprisonment up to five years or both shall be imposed on a person who willfully traffics a counterfeit label affixed or designed to be affixed to a phonorecord, or a copy of a computer program or documentation or packaging for a computer program, or a copy of a motion picture or other audiovisual work that is copyrighted.  This provision is applicable for offenses committed within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States or within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States.  If the accused is convicted, the court may also order forfeiture and destruction or other disposition of all counterfeit labels and all articles to which counterfeit labels have been affixed or intended to have the labels affixed.

In addition, if a person knowingly makes a false representation of a material fact in a copyright registration application, or in any written statement filed before the copyright office, such person can be fined up to $2,500.

Any person who fraudulently removes or alters any notice of copyright appearing on a copy of a copyrighted work is also subject to a fine up to $2,500.  This provision does not provide a private right of action.


Inside Criminal Liability