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Collecting Damages Copyright Infringement

Photographers Can Collect Damages for Copyright Infringement

Copyright infringement is illegal. If you are a photographer, you work hard to earn a living. You get to decide who uses your pictures and how. You also get to choose how much money, if any, you will charge for them.

Copyright infringement occurs with alarming frequency. You must take steps to collect compensation when someone violates your rights.

What is Copyright Infringement?

When you take a photograph, copyright automatically exists and grants you Several exclusive rights. Copyright infringement occurs when someone violates one of your exclusive rights under US Copyright Law. The rights include:

  • To make copies of the picture
  • To create derivative work based on the picture
  • To distribute copies of the picture
  • To publicly display the picture

When someone violates one of these rights, the actions might constitute copyright infringement.

To have a copyright infringement claim:

  • You must have a valid copyright
  • The alleged infringer must have access to the picture
  • The action of the suspected offender must not fall into an exception

In a Successful Infringement Case, You Can Collect Monetary Damages

When you prove infringement, you can collect damages. Depending on the circumstances, the following damages may be available:

Actual Damages
Actual damages are the losses that you, the copyright owner, directly suffered because of the infringement. Actual damages can be difficult to calculate because they are often speculative. These damages can include money for reduced sales of the copyrighted work or the loss of profits you would have earned from licensing.

The court will award you the profits earned by the infringer to the extent that they are higher than the value of your actual damages. The profits go to the copyright holder, so the violator does not benefit from his or her wrongdoing.

Statutory Damages
To collect statutory damages, you must show the court that you registered your pictures with the US Copyright Office. The registration must be before the infringement or within three months of publishing the picture.

What is the Value of Your Infringement Claim?

Every copyright infringement case is unique, and the range of monetary damage varies. When statutory damages are involved, the judge will determine the amount you will receive after analyzing various factors such as:

  • The severity of the infringement
  • The infringers ability to pay
  • The intent of the infringer

If the judge determines the infringement occurred innocently or was a mistake of some kind, you may only collect a few hundred dollars per incident of infringement. If you can prove the infringement on your copyright was intentional or malicious, the court may award you up to $150,000 per incident of infringement.

Examples of Copyright Infringement

Consider the following scenario: You have five photographs that are the subject of your copyright claim. You prove to the court that you hold a valid copyright, you registered it, and the defendant copied each photograph and sold them.

If the court decides the defendant, a small-time digital media specialist, had no way of knowing the photograph was copyrighted, the court may find she might have to pay less than the maximum based on the infringement.

If the court determines, the infringer worked for a large corporation that intended to infringe, the party knew the material was copyrighted, and the corporation sold thousands of copies; the defendant may have to pay up to $150,000 for each. In that case, the court could award up to $750,000.

Other Legal Remedies for Copyright Infringement

In addition to monetary damages, you might also ask the court for injunctive relief. An injunction stops the infringement from continuing. The court may impound or seize illegal reproductions or derivative work. The court can also give the infringer jail time.

Contact the Copyright Lawyers at Sanders Law Group

Have questions about collecting monetary damages for copyright infringement? You can reach our experienced copyright lawyers at 516-233-1660.


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