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Copyright Infringement Explained

Logo of the United States Copyright Office, symbolizing this post about copyright infringement

I recently realized that I have referred to copyright infringement in quite a few posts. However, I neglected to define that term. It is time to correct that oversight.

Copyright Infringement Defined

Generally, infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner. I.e., copyright infringement is a violation of the copyright owner’s exclusive rights. (See Copyright Protection in One Easy Lesson.)


Chapter 5 of Title 17 of the United States Code addresses copyright infringement and remedies for infringement. Depending on the circumstances, remedies might include any of the following.

  • A temporary or final injunction.
  • Impounding of infringing goods.
  • Actual damages and the infringer’s profits.
  • Statutory damages.
  • Costs and attorney’s fees.

Furthermore, under certain circumstances willful infringement can result in criminal liability.

Dana H. Shultz, Attorney at Law  +1 510-547-0545  dana [at] danashultz [dot] com
This blog does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, please contact a lawyer directly.

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  1. Quora

    Is it legal for our company to create a completely new compiler that analyzes and modifies *proprietary* source code to produce executables that our company would then use within our own product?…

    If I understand the situation correctly, you would be creating one or more derivative works of the existing source code. The right to create such derivative works belongs exclusively to owner of the copyright in the code. If you create such derivative …