• What Constitutes Copyright Infringement?
  • May 5, 2016 | Author: James H. Gulseth
  • Law Firm: JGPC Business & Corporate Law - Pleasanton Office
  • Sometimes the most valuable assets a business owns are not the physical buildings which house the employees or the land upon which such building sits, but the ideas, creations, and inventions that the company’s employees develop. Having any one of these creations stolen, pirated, or reproduced can rob the creating company of not only the idea or creation itself but also the time and resources that went into developing the creation and bringing its existence about.

    When the intellectual property of one company is unlawfully used or distributed by another company or individual, the creating company may choose to file a copyright infringement lawsuit. Copyright infringement lawsuits are not the only type of infringement suit available, and are not as straightforward as one might be led to believe.

    For a Copyright Infringement Case You Need a Copyright

    Before you can file a copyright infringement case, you must first obtain a copyright. Not all “creations” are capable of being protected with a copyright. In particular, a copyright is available for literary works, graphical or sculptural works, musical compositions, dramatic or choreographed pieces, sound recordings, pictures, and computer programs that are original and fixed in some physical medium. A copyright gives the holder the following rights:

    • The right to reproduce copies of the protected work;
    • The right to create additional work based on the original work;
    • The right to distribute copies to the public; and
    • The right to display and perform the work in public.

    What is – and What is Not – Copyright Infringement

    When a person who is not the copyright holder does any act which is only permitted to be done by the copyright holder, an infringement of the holder’s copyright may have occurred. For example, if your company creates a unique ringtone and obtains a copyright, a person who obtains your smartphone ringtone and then proceeds to reproduce it and sell it for less may have infringed on your copyright.

    However, a copyright does not offer you or your company any protection against an individual or company who independently researches and comes up with a creation similar to your own. So, for example, if a company in New York employs a musician who is unfamiliar with your ringtone but who, through the course of his or her work, develops a ringtone that is similar to yours, this company may be able to distribute its ringtone despite the fact that it sounds similar to your own. A copyright does not prevent others from doing their own work – it only prevents others from deliberately copying your work.


    This article was originally published on JGPC.com.