Copyright Infringement

DEFINITION of 'Copyright Infringement'

The use or production of copyright protected material without the permission of the copyright holder. Copyright infringement means that the rights afforded to the copyright holder, such as the exclusive use of a work for a set period of time, are being breached by a third-party. Music and movies are two of the most well-known forms of entertainment that suffer from significant amounts of copyright infringement.

BREAKING DOWN 'Copyright Infringement'

Individuals and companies who develop new works and register for copyright protection do so in order to ensure that they can profit from their efforts. Other parties may be granted permission to use those works through licensing arrangements, or may purchase the works from the copyright holder. However, several factors may lead other parties to engage in copyright infringement. Reasons include a high price for the authorized work, or a lack of access to a supply of the authorized work.

Copyright protection varies from country to country, with different options for recourse and different amounts of protection. Modern technology makes it relatively easy to copy a product or information, and some companies derive a substantial part of their revenue from replicating what other companies have created. In an international setting it can be difficult to prove copyright ownership, and domestic courts may see enforcement of copyright claims from international companies as a threat to national productivity. Some international organizations, such as the European Union, attempt to keep the regulations and enforcement guidelines of its member countries as harmonized as possible.

The growing importance of the Internet has created new obstacles for copyright holders. It is easier than ever for copyrighted materials to be accessed by companies around the world, and the creation of new technologies has outpaced the regulatory environment’s ability to ensure that copyrights apply to new formats. For example, the music industry was caught off guard by the development of online music sharing websites such as Napster. Companies seeking targets for copyright infringement claims can go after the companies providing the files, but could also seek damages from internet service providers (ISPs) as well as individual users.