Arthur R. Lehman, L.L.C.

Basics of Proving Copyright Infringement

Intellectual property deserves just as much protection as physical property. As the world moves forward in the Innovation Age, virtual property is going to become just as valuable as physical property. Many people seek to protect their ideas that exist in the virtual space with copyrights.

A copyright is a protection given to someone's intellectual property. People cannot use someone else's intellectual property without their permission. If someone violates that copyright, this crime is called copyright infringement. Proving copyright infringement can sometimes be a challenge. An important overview of copyright infringement is below. 

What is Protected by a Copyright?

A copyright protection gives someone exclusive control over the protected work. Examples of actions protected by copyright include printing an image of the protected property, publishing it on the web, performing a copyrighted play, or filming anything with a copyright attached to it. Copyright extends to artistic and music material is well, such as famous painters and recording artists. People with a copyright also have the ability to authorize others to use their work.

What Constitutes Copyright Infringement?

Before someone can take action against another person for copyright infringement, it is important to understand what actions constitute copyright infringement. Copyright infringement arises when someone violates the exclusive rights of a copyright owner as discussed above. In order to prove copyright infringement, the plaintiff needs to prove the following points:

  • Does the plaintiff own a valid copyright regarding the alleged material?
  • Did the defendant copy any of the elements of the protected work?

If the plaintiff can prove both of these points then the defendant is guilty of copyright infringement.

How can Someone Prove Ownership of a Valid Copyright?

When someone applies for a copyright, they need to prove that their work is original and that the subject matter is eligible for a copyright. When they apply for a copyright from the registration office, they will be given a certificate. This certificate proves that they own the copyright. Because this matter is relatively straightforward, most copyright cases surround proving the second point from above.

How can Someone Prove that the Defendant Copied their Work?

This is usually the tougher point to prove during a copyright infringement case. The defendant's work is going to be analyzed by numerous people who are trying to decide if their work contains any of the plaintiff's work that is protected under the copyright. The plaintiff will need to prove that their work was actually copied by the defendant and that the elements that were copied are protected by the copyright. Some of the important arguments in the case will surround the defendant's access to the plaintiff's work. In addition, the plaintiff will have to prove similarities between the two works. This can be a tremendous legal challenge that requires the attention of an attorney with experience dealing with copyright infringement cases.

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