There are several remedies available to the owner of a copyright in the event of infringement. These remedies are available to owners of registered copyrights under § 106 of the federal Copyright Act. These remedies include monetary relief, equitable relief, and costs and attorney's fees.
The Copyright Act provides for the recovery of two types of monetary relief, actual damages and statutory damages. Actual damages include:
- Lost profits resulting from the infringement
- Infringer's profits
- Up to $100,000 for willful (i.e., deliberate) infringement
Instead of seeking actual damages, a copyright owner may opt for statutory damages which typically range from $500 to $20,000 per infringement. The court may decide to increase the fine to $100,000 in cases of willful infringement. Registration of the copyright prior to infringement is a requirement.
Punitive damages are generally not recoverable in copyright infringement cases.
Injunctions are orders issued by a court ordering someone to do something or prohibiting some act. Injunctions are available in two forms:
- Preliminary injunctions - court orders made in the early stages of a lawsuit or petitions which prohibit the parties from doing an act which is in dispute (e.g. stopping publication of infringing work)
- Permanent injunctions - final orders from a court that a person or entity permanently discontinue doing certain activities or take certain actions
Preliminary injunctive relief is granted if the copyright owner can demonstrate a high probability of winning the case. Unlike in trademark and patent cases, the copyright owner need not show a permanent injury sustained. The court also may allow the seizure, impoundment, and/or destruction of any infringing copies.
It is within the court's discretion whether or not to grant permanent injunctive relief, although it is often awarded to the prevailing copyright owner.
Costs and Attorney's Fees
A copyright owner may recover his costs and, depending on the jurisdiction, reasonable attorneys' fees.
Should I Consult a Lawyer about My Copyright Issues?
The remedies and resolutions for copyright issues are detailed and complex. You may wish to contact an intellectual property attorney. An attorney can help you choose the remedy that works best for your particular needs. A lawyer can also participate in on-going research to make certain no one else is using your copyright without your permission. Additionally, in cases of copyright infringement, an attorney can guide you through the difficult and strict procedural requirements for litigation and bring out the core issues of your case.