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What damages may be sought in a copyright infringement case?

Copyright infringement is the unauthorized use of a copyrighted work. There are some uses of a copyrighted work that are considered fair use, though, and are not considered copyright infringement.

The best way for someone to avoid copyright infringement is to get permission from the author before using those facts or expression of ideas. Restating the information in your own words will work if you can't get permission from the author.

Fair use can be research, commentary, news reporting, teaching, criticism and scholarship. There is no use that "presumptively fair." In other words, when the court is considering whether something has been used under the "fair use" part of the law, the court considers four factors. Those are:

-- The copyrighted work's nature. Using expressive works instead of factual works will have a lower threshold for fair use. Unpublished works will, too.

-- How much of the work was used. The courts will consider both the quantitative and qualitative use.

-- How the work will be used. This includes whether the use will be for an educational, non-profit nature or for commercial use.

-- Whether the use of the copyrighted works will affect its value or the market for it.

If the owner of copyrighted works believes that the works have been infringed upon, then he or she can sue the person in federal court. He or she can seek an injection against using the works anymore. Actual damages may be awarded, which includes any profits the infringer would have made. The owner can also decide to receive a set amount of damages instead of actual damages. Damages can range from $200 to $150,000.

If you have been charged with copyright infringement, you may actually be charged criminally. You may also be charged civilly. An attorney can help you determine how to proceed.

Source: Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, "How to avoid copyright infringement -- Legal action to protect a copyright," accessed June 17, 2016

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