Copyright fraud is the unauthorized use of copyrighted material in a way that infringes upon the copyright holder’s exclusive rights. Copyright law grants certain exclusive rights to the creators of original works, including the right to reproduce the work, distribute copies of the work, and create derivative works based on the original. Copyright fraud occurs when someone uses a copyrighted work without permission from the copyright holder, in a way that violates one or more of these exclusive rights.
Copyright fraud can take many forms, including copying and distributing pirated copies of movies, music, software, or other copyrighted works; using copyrighted images or other materials without permission in advertising or on websites; or selling counterfeit copies of copyrighted products. Copyright fraud can be committed by individuals, companies, or other organizations, and can be perpetrated online or offline.
Copyright fraud is illegal and can result in civil and criminal penalties, including fines and prison sentences. Copyright holders can bring a lawsuit against parties that engage in copyright fraud, seeking damages and other remedies. In addition, law enforcement agencies can take action against parties that engage in large-scale copyright fraud, such as by raiding warehouses or other locations where pirated copies of copyrighted works are being produced or sold.
In April 2020, a study conducted by the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers revealed that one in five scientific papers published in 2018 had evidence of plagiarism or copyright fraud. The study found that “20.9% of papers had evidence of plagiarism, 21.1% had evidence of copyright fraud, and 0.5% had evidence of both.” (Culpin, 2020).
In December 2020, the US Department of Justice announced that it had charged two individuals with copyright infringement for illegally streaming copyrighted content. The two individuals had set up a website and a streaming server to illegally stream content from a major movie studio. They were charged with “willfully infringing the copyright of the movie studio” and “distributing a digital transmission of copyrighted works” (Department of Justice, 2020). References Culpin, T. (2020).
One in five papers published in 2018 had evidence of plagiarism or copyright fraud. Retrieved from https://www.iasp-publishers.org/studies-detail-1/ Department of Justice. (2020). Two charged with copyright infringement for illegally streaming copyrighted content. Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/usao
Penalties for copyright fraud can range from civil to criminal penalties depending on the severity of the offense. Civil penalties can include paying damages, such as any profits made from the infringement, as well as paying the copyright holder’s attorney’s fees. Criminal penalties can include fines and even jail time, depending on the circumstances of the case.
1. David C. Li, who ran an online piracy ring that illegally distributed copyrighted movies and television shows, was sentenced to 37 months in prison in 2016. (https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/california-man-sentenced-37-months-prison-his-role-leading-role-massive-online-piracy-ring) 2. Matthew David Howard Smith, the operator of a website that provided links to pirated software, was sentenced to one year in prison in 2017. (https://www.justice.gov/usao-edky/pr/georgia-man-sentenced-one-year-federal-prison-copyright-infringement-case) 3. Jeramiah Perkins, who illegally distributed copyrighted software, was sentenced to two years in prison in 2011. (https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/arkansas-man-sentenced-two-years-prison-distributing-and-selling-pirated-software) 4. Michael Chicoine, a former government employee who made unauthorized copies of copyrighted software, was sentenced to four years in prison in 2013. (https://www.justice