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Criminal copyright infringement carries serious penalties

Copyrighted works are protected by 17 U.S.C. subsection 506(a), which states that anyone who infringes a copyright willfully and for the purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain are guilty of criminal copyright infringement. Previously, Pennsylvania infringers could only be held liable if they actually made a profit, but an update to the statute in 1976 lowered the standard to allow those who intended to profit -- but did not -- to be held accountable for copyright infringement.

 

Copyrighted works are protected by 17 U.S.C. subsection 506(a), which states that anyone who infringes a copyright willfully and for the purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain are guilty of criminal copyright infringement. Previously, Pennsylvania infringers could only be held liable if they actually made a profit, but an update to the statute in 1976 lowered the standard to allow those who intended to profit -- but did not -- to be held accountable for copyright infringement.

Violators may be sentenced up to one year in federal prison and up to $10,000 for general infringements, and up to $50,000, if the work was a sound recording or motion picture. Certain types of infringements were made punishable as felonies in 1982 when the statute was again amended. According to 18 U.S.C. subsection 2319(b)(1), to be classified as a felony, at least ten copies or phonorecords, or at least one copyrighted work with a retail value of more than $2,500 must have been reproduced or distributed during a 180-day period.

Section 2319 was amended in 1992 to allow felony level sanctions to be imposed for violations of copyrighted works in digital format. According to this amendment, the infringement must be either for the purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain, or must involve reproduction or distribution of at least one work with a total retail value of $1,000 within a 180-day period.

Violators of this statute who were commercially motivated face up to five years in federal prison and $250,000 in fines, whereas non-commercially motivated infringers face up to one year in prison and $100,000 in fines. Those charged with a second or subsequent felony offense may face up to ten years imprisonment in addition to applicable fines.

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