How to Defend Against Copyright Violation Allegations
Copyright infringement is a violation of the rights of the creator to his creative work, and as such, any owner of copyrighted work can take someone to court if he feels another party has stolen his work.
In many cases, the infringement is unintentional, minor, or accidental, and if you are facing charges related to a copyright violation, you must be able to defend against the allegations. There are several key reasons that a suit of copyright infringement may be thrown out of court:
With over seven billion people on Earth, two people could create works with significant similarities. It may be necessary to prove that your work was created without any prior knowledge of the plaintiff’s work.
De Minimis Non Curat Lex
There is a legal doctrine called “de minimis non curat lex” which translates from Latin to “the law does not concern itself with trifles.” In practice, this is the right of a court not to involve itself in minor matters.
If you can show that your use of copyrighted work was minor and unimportant, then this doctrine can be used as a valid defense.
To clarify, let’s take an example of a copyrighted photo that was used as a photographic backdrop in a scene in a movie. In watching the movie, the creator of that photo sees his work being used without any acknowledgment or royalties and sues the production company of the film for copyright infringement. Let’s take two variations of that scenario:
- Scenario 1: The backdrop is slightly blurred in the background and not recognizable to the average person. The production company states that the use of the photograph is de minimis and therefore not a copyright infringement. In such a case, the court will likely agree, and the case will be dismissed.
- Scenario 2: The backdrop is in clear focus and a feature of the scene, and it is clearly recognizable to the average person. In this case, the company is not likely to get away with a de minimis defense, and the charge of copyright infringement may stand.
There are specific scenarios where you can claim “fair use” and legally use parts of a copyrighted work without the express permission of the owner of the copyright, typically with proper reference and credit to the creator of the work. Some of these are:
- Non-profit use
- Educational use
- News reporting
- Research purposes
There are no hard rules regarding what is considered “fair use,” but critical factors often taken into consideration are:
- The impact on the value of the original work
- The benefit to the public in the limited use of the work
First Sale Doctrine
First-sale doctrine is the right of a legal purchaser of a copyrighted work to resell or discard that which he purchases. It does not, however, give someone the right to buy work, and make copies to resell.
What Do I Do Now?
If you are facing charges of copyright infringement, you must get a criminal defense attorney on your side as soon as possible to prepare a proper defense. While an understanding of the defense strategies for copyright infringement is helpful, working with an actual lawyer with experience is your best bet in proving your innocence. At Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP, our team of white-collar crime defense lawyers have achieved acclaim for our excellent defense work. Call us at (213) 688-0460 today.