Secondary copyright infringement is a legal theory that allows a person to be held liable for copyright infringement, even though they didn’t engage in the actual infringement activities themselves. It basically involves the defendant inducing, causing, or contributing to material copyright infringement activities.

Secondary copyright infringement may carry with it some strict legal consequences. It is also call contributory infringement or secondary liability for copyright infringement.

How Is Secondary Copyright Infringement Proven?

In order to be held liable for secondary infringement or contributory infringement, the following elements must be found:

  • There is a valid copyright in place
  • There is an existing case of direct infringement by another party
  • The defendant knew of the copyright
  • The defendant knew that their actions would lead to copyright infringement

For instance, if the defendant provided another party with access to copyrighted material, knowing that it would be used for the purpose of infringing that copyright, they might be held liable under law. Another example would be where the defendant induced another party to violate a copyright. In this case, the defendant can be held liable even though they didn’t physically execute the infringing activities.

Are There Any Legal Penalties for Secondary Copyright Infringement?

The Copyright Act doesn’t specifically create legal penalties or liability for secondary infringement. However, this does not prevent courts from imposing legal penalties on persons who have engaged in contributory infringement.

Penalties for secondary infringement may resemble those for direct infringement. These can include:

  • Fines
  • Damages paid to the copyright holder for losses
  • In some cases, federal criminal charges)

The amount of damages may depend on the amount of losses caused to the copyright holder. The government may also confiscate any materials used in the infringement activities. Various defenses to copyright infringement may be available for the defendant.

Should I Hire a Copyright Lawyer?

Secondary copyright infringement is a serious offense and can lead to strict legal penalties. You may need to hire an intellectual property lawyer for assistance with any copyright issues. Your lawyer can provide you with legal advice and representation for your claim. If you need to file a lawsuit or appear in court, your lawyer can guide you through that process from beginning to end.