The Ins and Outs of Copyright Violations

01st April 2009
By mgordon in Copyright & Trademark
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Copyright infringement is a hot button issue for anyone whose work might be termed "intellectual property." Working within the creative sphere, anyone who finishes a piece of work and can be said to have "created" it, will justifiably have reason to complain if someone then takes all or part of their work and passes it off as their own. The act of copyright violation is also known as "piracy" - a term that was notably used in 1703 when the legendary writer Daniel Defoe said of one of his novels that it was being printed "again and again, by Pyrates." It is felt by some, however, that to use such a term for copyright infringement unjustifiably puts it on a par with greater crimes committed at sea.

The crime of copyright infringement is, however, seen as a deeply unfair act, as it allows the person carrying it out to profit financially from doing very little in the way of hard work. It has become almost inevitable when watching a DVD or other form of recorded visual media that you will first have to sit through a short advertisement warning you of the illegality of "piracy". Although these advertisements often paint copyright infringement as being on a par with crimes such as mugging and grand theft auto, they seem to have done little to halt the spread of such activity.

It has become common practice for people in possession of a "screener" - a preview DVD copy of a film which is still under cinema release - to store the movie to their hard drive and place it on the Internet for viewing by more people. Although this is, in practice, illegal the fact remains that the relevant laws are hard to enforce and the practice continues due to the technical literacy of the people streaming the film online. Under the laws regarding fair use, it is often possible to defend such activity by showing that it is not for profit.

The penalties for copyright infringement will depend on the extent of the operation. If someone can be shown to have profited from the illegal distribution of pirated material, then they may very well face a jail term. The length of this jail term will depend on various factors, not least the extent of the profit made. It also throws into question the reasons for an individual to commit piracy. If it is for personal profit, although the offender may well face jail time, this will be greatly reduced as compared with piracy to fund other illegal operations.

In more than one jurisdiction it has been shown that the sale of bootleg DVDs, CDs and other media have been used to fund terrorist activity. This naturally is viewed much more dimly than if the sale was purely for commercial reasons. Cases brought in this situation will always result in a lengthy spell in jail for the offender, as it is viewed as a much more serious crime.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational and entertainment purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. is a complete online resource that compares the legal services offered by various online companies. Find the best company for your copyright search needs at /.

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Melissa Gordon is the publisher of, a complete online resource that compares the legal services from various online companies. Find the best company for your LLC formation needs at /.
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