Civil and Criminal Penalties for Violation of Federal Copyright Laws

Anyone who is found to be liable for copyright infringement may be ordered to pay either actual damages suffered as a result of the infringement along with any profits of the infringer attributable to the infringement that are not already taken into account in computing the actual damages, or “statutory” damages between $750 and $30,000 per work infringed. In the case of a “willful” infringement, a court may award up to $150,000 per work infringed. (See 17 U.S.C. §504.) Courts also have discretion to award costs and attorneys’ fees to the prevailing party. (See 17 U.S.C. §505.) Willful copyright infringement can also result in criminal penalties, including imprisonment of up to five years and fines of up to $250,000 per offense. Criminal penalties may vary depending on the nature of the offense and whether the infringer has previously been convicted of criminal copyright infringement under 18 U.S.C. §2319. (See 17 U.S.C. §506 and 18 U.S.C. §2319.)