What is a Copyright Law? 

When you have an original piece of work that could be valuable to others, you need to safeguard it as much as possible. 

Copyright law is a legal framework that grants creators exclusive rights to their original works of authorship. Whether you’ve written a book, created a song, or painted a picture, copyright law ensures your work is protected from being used, reproduced, or distributed without your permission.

Copyrighted intellectual property can include any of the following:

  • Literary works: Books, articles, poems, essays, and other written materials.
  • Artistic works: Paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, and other visual art.
  • Musical compositions: Songs, melodies, and musical arrangements.
  • Dramatic works: Plays, scripts, screenplays, and choreography.
  • Audiovisual works: Movies, television shows, videos, and multimedia presentations.
  • Architectural works: Building designs, architectural plans, and blueprints.
  • Software: Computer programs, applications, and code.
  • Choreography: Dance routines and compositions.
  • Sound recordings: Recordings of musical performances, speeches, etc.
  • Derivative works: Adaptations, translations, and other works based on pre-existing copyrighted material.
  • Compilation works: Collections of data, facts, or other materials arranged uniquely.
  • Broadcasts: Radio and television broadcasts, including live and recorded content.

At the law firm of Emerson Thomson Bennett, our copyright attorneys assist clients with obtaining protection and litigating alleged infringement on protected works. We’re prepared to defend your rights and keep your IP safe. 

Find Your Copyright Lawyer in Ohio

Copyright Prosecution

Some might not think they need the assistance of a copyright prosecution attorney to protect their original creative works. Although you automatically have the copyright to an original work of authorship once you create it, that’s not always enough to ensure its protection. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that you don’t need any additional steps to preserve your Intellectual Property (IP)

Registering your copyright is a highly recommended (albeit voluntary) step if you want greater protection for your work. The copyright attorneys of Emerson Thomson Bennett can assist you through the process of registering for and obtaining copyright protection. 

A professional copyright lawyer will carefully review your piece of work to determine if it’s eligible to be registered or if it may infringe on an existing work. 

Copyright Infringement 

Once you’ve obtained the proper protection for your original work, you should still take measures to prevent others from using or abusing it. 

While protecting your IP is essential, you also need to ensure that you don’t mistakenly infringe on someone else’s. ​The team at Emerson Thomson Bennett assists clients in maintaining their copyright protection and avoiding infringing on an existing copyright. 

Our litigation group has experience in prosecuting and defending against infringement actions. We aggressively pursue enforcing or defending our client’s rights and ensure that our clients are an active part of the litigation team. 

​Our copyright practice is focused on helping our clients avoid infringement actions filed on behalf of copyright owners. ​We advise businesses on fair use laws and commonplace activities that can constitute infringement. At Emerson Thomson Bennett, we assist with the development and implementation of internal programs designed to ensure compliance and avoid infringement litigation.

Copyright Law FAQs 

Q1. What happens if someone copyrights your work?

When someone copyrights your work without your permission, it can lead to several potential consequences and legal actions. Here’s what typically happens:

  1. Cease and Desist Letter: If you become aware that someone has copyrighted your work without permission, your first step may be to send them a cease and desist letter. This document formally notifies the infringer that they are unlawfully using your copyrighted material and demands they stop using it immediately.
  2. DMCA Takedown Notice: If the copyrighted material is being used online, you can submit a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice to the internet service provider hosting the content or to the website where the infringement has taken place. The DMCA provides a mechanism for copyright owners to request the removal of infringing content from online platforms.
  3. Legal Action: If the infringer refuses to comply with your demands to cease using your copyrighted work, you may need to pursue legal action. This often involves filing a lawsuit for copyright infringement in federal court. 
  4. Defenses: The infringer may attempt to raise certain defenses to avoid liability for copyright infringement. Common defenses include:
    • Fair use, if the infringing use qualifies as fair use under copyright law
    • Lack of originality if the copyrighted work is not original or does not meet the threshold for copyright protection
    • License, if the infringer can demonstrate that they had a valid license or permission to use the copyrighted material
  1. Settlement: In many cases, copyright disputes are resolved through settlement negotiations. A settlement agreement may involve the infringer paying damages to the copyright owner and/or agreeing to stop using the copyrighted material.
  2. Criminal Penalties: In cases of willful and egregious copyright infringement, the infringer may face criminal penalties, including fines and imprisonment. However, criminal prosecution for copyright infringement is relatively rare and typically reserved for serious offenses.

Ultimately, copyright infringement can have serious consequences for both the infringer and the copyright owner. If you believe someone has wrongfully copyrighted your work without your permission, your first step should be to consult a copyright lawyer immediately. 

Q2. What are some examples of copyright infringement?

Copyright infringement can take various forms, both online and offline. To help you spot it in real-life situations, here are some prime examples: 

  1. Unauthorized Reproduction: One of the most common forms of copyright infringement is the unauthorized reproduction of copyrighted works. This includes making copies of books, articles, music, movies, software, or other creative works without the permission of the copyright owner. 
    • For example, photocopying a book or making copies of a copyrighted movie and distributing them without authorization legally constitutes infringement.
  2. Plagiarism: This occurs when someone presents another person’s work as their own without proper attribution. Plagiarism can involve copying and pasting text from a copyrighted source into a paper, article, or website without permission or proper citation. It can also occur in other creative works, such as music or visual art when someone passes off another artist’s work as their own.
  3. Unauthorized Distribution: Another common form of copyright infringement is the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material. This includes sharing or distributing copyrighted works, such as music, movies, software, or books, without permission from the copyright owner. 
    • For example, sharing copyrighted music or movies through peer-to-peer file-sharing networks without authorization constitutes infringement.
  4. Derivative Works: Infringement can also occur when someone creates a derivative work based on a copyrighted work without permission. A derivative work is a new work based on or incorporating elements of a pre-existing copyrighted work. This can include adaptations, translations, remixes, or other transformative works created without authorization from the original copyright owner.
  5. Performing Rights: When someone performs or displays a copyrighted work in public without permission, that can count as infringement. This includes performing copyrighted music in a public venue, such as a concert or club, without obtaining the required licenses from the copyright owners or performing copyrighted plays or movies without authorization.
  6. Online Infringement: With the proliferation of the internet, copyright infringement has become increasingly common online. This can include illegally downloading or streaming copyrighted music, movies, or software, sharing copyrighted files through email or social media, or using copyrighted images or text on websites or blogs without permission.
  7. Counterfeiting: Counterfeiting involves the unauthorized reproduction or distribution of copyrighted goods, such as counterfeit copies of branded clothing, accessories, or consumer electronics. Counterfeit goods not only infringe on the copyright of the original creators but also pose risks to consumers due to their lower quality and lack of safety standards.

These are just a few examples of copyright infringement, there are many other ways individuals and businesses can violate copyright law. That’s why you always need to know your rights and be prepared to take action to protect your intellectual property. 

Q3. What is the penalty for violating copyright?

The penalties for violating copyright tend to vary depending on the severity of the infringement, whether it was intentional or unintentional, and the jurisdiction in which the infringement occurred. 

Here are some of the possible consequences: 

  1. Civil Penalties:
    • Statutory Damages: In many jurisdictions, copyright law provides for statutory damages, which are predetermined amounts set by law that a court can award to the copyright owner without the need to prove actual financial harm. These damages can range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands per work infringed, or even more in cases of willful infringement.
    • Actual Damages and Profits: In addition to statutory damages, copyright owners may also be entitled to recover actual damages suffered as a result of the infringement, and any profits the infringer made from using the copyrighted material.
    • Injunctive Relief: Courts can issue injunctions ordering the infringer to stop using the copyrighted material immediately. Failure to comply with an injunction can result in further legal consequences, including contempt of court.
  2. Criminal Penalties:
    • Fines: In some jurisdictions, copyright infringement can be a criminal offense that’s punishable by fines. The amount of the fine can vary depending on the severity of the infringement and whether it was committed for commercial gain.
    • Imprisonment: In cases of willful and egregious copyright infringement, the infringer may face imprisonment as a criminal penalty. However, criminal prosecution for copyright infringement is relatively rare and typically reserved for serious offenses.
  3. Seizure and Destruction of Infringing Copies: Courts may order the seizure and destruction of infringing copies of copyrighted works, plus any materials or equipment used to produce them.
  4. Legal Costs and Copyright Lawyer Fees: In copyright infringement lawsuits, the losing party may be required to pay the prevailing party’s legal costs and attorney’s fees. This can significantly increase the financial burden on the infringer if they are found liable for infringement.

Overall, the penalties for violating copyright can be significant and may include financial consequences, legal sanctions, and reputational harm. 

If you believe your copyright has been infringed upon, or you’re not sure what you’re owed, don’t hesitate to reach out to our copyright prosecution team. We’re here to help you protect and defend your creative works, and that includes pursuing the appropriate penalties for infringement. 

Q4. How much can I sue for copyright infringement?

That’s a complicated question. The amount you can sue for in a copyright infringement case can vary widely depending on several factors, including the nature and extent of the infringement, whether the infringement was willful, the jurisdiction in which the lawsuit is filed, and the specific provisions of copyright law applicable to your case.

To determine the appropriate compensation, you’ll also need to consider: 

  1. Statutory Damages: In many jurisdictions, copyright law provides for statutory damages – predetermined amounts set by law that a court can award to the copyright owner without the need to prove actual financial harm. These damages can vary significantly, typically from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands per work infringed (or even more in cases of willful infringement).
  2. Actual Damages and Profits: Copyright owners may also be entitled to recover actual damages suffered as a result of the infringement, including any profits that the infringer made from using the copyrighted material. These damages are determined based on the specific financial harm suffered by the copyright owner, such as lost licensing revenue or sales.
  3. Attorney’s Fees and Legal Costs: In many copyright prosecution cases, the prevailing party may be entitled to recover attorney’s fees and legal costs from the losing party. This can significantly increase the total amount of damages awarded in the case.
  4. Enhanced Damages for Willful Infringement: If the infringement is found to be willful, meaning that the infringer knew they were infringing or recklessly disregarded the copyright owner’s rights, the court may award enhanced damages. Enhanced damages can be up to three times the amount of actual damages or statutory damages.
  5. Punitive Damages: In some cases of egregious copyright infringement, the court may award punitive damages to punish the infringer and deter future misconduct. Punitive damages are intended to go beyond compensating the copyright owner for their losses and serve as a deterrent to others.

If you’re wondering how much you could sue an infringer for, reach out to our team. We’ll set up a copyright prosecution consultation to assess all of your damages and the full impact of the infringement, then determine the best course of action. 

Q5. What must a person suing for copyright infringement prove? 

To successfully sue for copyright infringement, a person must typically prove several key elements of the case. This includes demonstrating the following: 

  1. Ownership of a Valid Copyright: The plaintiff (the person suing) must prove that they own a valid copyright in the work allegedly infringed. This means they must show that they are the original creator of the work or that they obtained the copyright through a valid transfer or assignment.
  2. Existence of the Copyrighted Work: The plaintiff must establish that the work in question is protected by copyright law. Copyright protects original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression, such as literary works, musical compositions, artistic creations, and other forms of creative expression.
  3. Copying of the Work: The plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant (the person being sued) did infringe upon their copyrighted work. This can be established by showing that the defendant had access to the copyrighted work and that the allegedly infringing work is substantially similar to the copyrighted work.
  4. Substantial Similarity: The plaintiff must prove that the allegedly infringing work is substantially similar to their copyrighted work. This involves comparing the two works to identify similarities in expression, even if the underlying ideas or concepts differ.
  5. Violation of Exclusive Rights: Copyright law grants copyright owners certain exclusive rights, including the right to reproduce, distribute, perform, and display their copyrighted works. The plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant’s actions do constitute a violation of one or more of these exclusive rights.
  6. Damages or Harm: To recover damages, the plaintiff may need to prove that they suffered actual financial harm as a result of the infringement. Alternatively, they may seek statutory damages, which do not require proof of actual harm but may be subject to certain limitations.
  7. Willfulness: In some cases, the plaintiff may need to prove that the infringement was willful, meaning that the defendant knowingly or recklessly infringed on the plaintiff’s copyright. Willful infringement may lead to enhanced damages or other remedies.

Not sure how to prove any of this? Don’t worry – that’s what we’re here to do. Contact our copyright attorneys to begin the process of documenting, reporting, and showcasing your copyright infringement. 

Protect Your Rights to Your Creative Works

Ensuring that your IP stays in the right hands takes hard work and dedication. Original works of authorship can be extremely valuable assets, and the importance of keeping them safe cannot be underestimated. 

At Emerson Thomson Bennett, we’re dedicated to protecting your intellectual property and offer various services to help ensure others do not infringe on your rights as the owner. We also want to help you avoid any complications that can arise by unknowingly infringing on another party’s IP.

If you have concerns regarding the protection of your work or avoiding the infringement of another party’s intellectual property, you need a copyright lawyer to find the best solution. Contact our copyright attorneys for assistance with copyright matters today.

John Skeriotis

Partner – Litigation Practice Chair

John Skeriotis

Areas of Practice

Intellectual Property, Patent, Trademarks, Copyright, Internet Law, Litigation, Licensing



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