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Infringement or Circumvention of Copyright, Civil Liability and Actions

Copyright is a collection of exclusive rights.  Anyone including state that violates any of the exclusive rights of  copyright owner or who imports copies or phonorecords into the United States in violation of copyright law is an infringer of the copyright.

The exclusive right of a copyright includes the right of the owner to reproduce the copyrighted work; to prepare derivative works based upon the original copyrighted work; to distribute copies by sale or by lending; to perform the work publicly in case of any dance or art forms; to display the work publicly in cases where the work is a sculpture or a piece of art; and in case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

However, there are several limitations to the exclusive rights of the copyright owner.  One of which is statutory or compulsory license which allows a person to use a copyrighted work without the explicit permission of its owner.  In such cases, law sets up agency or a specific body to negotiate and collect royalty for the work used by way of statutory license.

Copyright infringement is generally a civil matter, which the copyright owner must pursue in federal court.  The court may require such owner to serve written notice of the action with a copy of the complaint upon any person whose interest is likely to be affected by a decision in the case.  Any court having jurisdiction of a civil action may grant temporary and final injunctions on such terms as it may deem reasonable to prevent or restrain infringement of a copyright.  Under certain circumstances, the infringement may also constitute a criminal misdemeanor or felony, which would be prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Although, Copyright protection automatically exists from the moment a work is created, a copyright owner cannot proceed with a copyright infringement lawsuit unless the work is registered.  If registration is made before or within five years of publication, it will establish prima facie evidence of the copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate. If registration is made within three months after publication of the work or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorney’s fees will be available.  Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits will be available to the copyright owner in court actions.

Remedies for infringement of copyright include impounding and disposition of infringing articles.  At any time while an action is pending, the court may order the impounding, on of all copies or phonorecords or articles by means of which such copies may be reproduced or used in violation of the exclusive right of the copyright owner.  The records documenting the manufacture, sale, or receipt of things involved in any such violation may be seized and shall be taken into the custody of the court.  During impounding of records appropriate procedures shall be taken to ensure that confidential, private, proprietary, or privileged information contained in such records is not improperly disclosed or used.

As part of a final judgment or decree, the court may order the destruction or other reasonable disposition of all copies or phonorecords found to have been made or used in violation of the copyright owner’s exclusive rights.  All plates, molds, matrices, masters, tapes, film negatives, or other articles by means of which such copies or phonorecords may be reproduced may also be disposed.

In any civil action under the copyright law, the court in its discretion may allow the recovery of full costs by or against any party other than the United States or an officer.  The court may also award a reasonable attorney’s fee to the prevailing party as part of the costs.

No civil action shall be maintained under the provisions of this title unless it is commenced within three years after the claim accrued and no criminal proceeding shall be maintained unless it is commenced within 5 years after the cause of action arose.

Within one month after the filing of any action the clerks of the courts of the United States shall send written notification to the Register of Copyrights the names and addresses of the parties and the title, author, and registration number of each work involved in the action. 
Final judgment regarding the matter is also notified to the register of copyrights. Upon receiving the notifications the Register shall make them a part of the public records of the Copyright Office.

No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under copyright law. “Circumvent protection afforded by a technological measure” means avoiding, bypassing, removing, deactivating, or otherwise impairing a technological measure.  A person shall not deal with a device which is primarily designed or produced for the purpose of circumventing a technological measure that effectively controls access to a protected work.

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