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What constitutes copyright infringement and how is it penalized?

Nowadays in most schools, at least some portion of the curriculum is dedicated to teaching students about what types of written works are covered by copyright protections. Teachers are keen to emphasize that just because information is found online, its author is still afforded the same copyright protections that any other writer would enjoy.

As such, students are often taught that anyone who violates an author's exclusive rights to his or her material may be criminally prosecuted for copyright infringement.

Copyright laws protect an author's rights to create derivative works off of his or her original work and to reproduce, perform, transmit, distribute or display those protected works however he or she likes.

In order to substantiate a claim of infringement, the person who claims ownership over the copyright must first be able to prove that he or she has the legal right to it. Second, its owner must be able to show evidence of the fact that either the original work was copied or that a derivative of it was made in the likeness of the copywritten piece.

Should the work's owner be successful in demonstrating that his or her copywritten work was copied or otherwise used unlawfully, then he or she may be eligible to recover damages. They may be eligible to recover compensation for each instance in which unauthorized reproduction of their work occurred.

If you've been accused of having pawned off someone else's written work as your own, then it's important to understand that you could be held both criminally and financially liable for any harm you caused. Lost profits, attorney and court fees and fines could easily rise to the level of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In learning more about the nature of the specific charges that have been waged against you, a Prince Georges County attorney can advise you of your rights in your case.

Source: Berkman Klein Center for Internet Security, "Copyright infringement," accessed Feb. 08, 2018

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