Copyright Infringement Lawsuits

By: Richard Cunningham

A copyright infringement lawsuit can occur for any number of reasons: someone using a song in a podcast or radio program, a writer “borrowing" information from another work, copying video or mp3 off the Internet without permission (or sometimes, even to another CD or DVD). Copyright infringement lawsuits are not generally brought to the average person, unless they’re downloading a LOT of music or movies, but usually for large operations: software pirates reselling goods on eBay or to some other unsuspecting victim, someone “sampling" a song to make another, or maybe a person reselling mp3s online.

When you understand the implications of it, copyright infringement lawsuits aren’t frivolous as some people think. For the most part, the average person’s familiarity with a copyright infringement lawsuit is taking down copyrighted material after receiving a nasty email.

If you use works from record albums by major recording stars (like Britney Spears or 50 Cent) to make a different recording as your own, then you can be sued for copyright infringement. Usually these suits will be lost because it’s rather hard to prove inspiration, but they are rather costly and draining, especially if there isn’t a large backing legal team.

Copyright infringement lawsuits for large enterprises can be costly and time consuming. If you work for someone, and you plagiarize someone on the company blog, the whole company can be sued, and you can be fired, for that infraction. Another large copyright infringement lawsuit is the eminent MySpace v. Universal Music Group, who is claiming that MySpace is knowingly committing copyright infringement by allowing users to upload copyrighted material. Even then, Universal Music Group has been negotiating with MySpace and couldn’t come to an agreement -- then they filed suit.

Universal Music Group has an agreement with YouTube, where YouTube agrees to follow Universal’s rules. It’s worked out well thus far, and I think with an agreement in place “user created content" will retain a destination on the Internet.

This is a testament we all need to be with social networking sites and ‘user created content.’ We need to watch ourselves, because many times we may not realize the veracity of our actions.

Sometimes, people break copyright laws on purpose. There is a huge market for pirated software -- from Windows to Photoshop to The Sims. It’s very easy to share peer-to-peer, and because of that, people can resell pirated copies for a high price -- all profit. Or they’ll download MP3 and resell them; or eBooks. People who resell these items get nasty penalties -- with both copyright infringement lawsuits and criminal cases. They’ll pay a hefty fine and go to jail.

Copyright infringement lawsuits can affect any one of us -- from our friends on MySpace to our employer, to the computer geek down the street. It’s easy to violate copyrights, and you have to watch yourself. The chances are good that you won’t be involved in a major copyright infringement lawsuit, but you still need to ensure you’re following copyright laws.

Copyright infringement lawsuits are important to determine what is, and isn’t, applicable to copyright laws. Because of these lawsuits, our laws have changed regarding Fair Use, Internet use, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation and CreativeCommons.com. The lawsuits help us to understand what is, and what isn’t fair -- and these organizations have helped the masses to understand what’s so important about copyright, and why we need to defend our freedom of speech.


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