If you are like most people who attend movies, watch television or read books, you have at least noticed the copyright notice found at the start of these materials. Generally speaking, the copyright notice includes language something to the effect of:

"Federal law provides severe civil and criminal penalties for the unauthorized reproduction, distribution, or exhibition of copyrighted materials. Criminal copyright infringement is investigated by the FBI. "

With that said, you may wonder what the penalties associated with infringing a copyright. As you reed this article, please keep in mind this article is not designed to give you legal advice. Rather, this article has been prepared for informational purposes only. If you find you have specific questions about copyright law and copyright infringement, you would be better served by contacting an attorney who specializes in copyright law. That attorney can answer your questions and provide to you assistance with copyright issues.

When it comes to the penalties with violating or infringing a copyright, the penalties come in two forms: civil and criminal.


The civil penalties for copyright infringement not registered with the Library of Congress include actual losses sustained by the copyright owner as the result of the infringement. When it comes to a registered copyright filed with the Library of Congress, the copyright owner can also obtain triple damages above and beyond actual damages, together with attorney fees in a copyright infringement case.


In reality, criminal prosecutions involving violations of copyright law are not common in this day and age. Some experts in the field believe in the not too distant future we will see an increase in criminal prosecutions associated with copyright infringement.

Many people scoff at the idea of criminal prosecutions for copyright infringement. Because these types of prosecutions have not been common historically, some people are willing to breach or infringe upon a copyright interest with little regard for possible penalties.

One area in which criminal prosecutions have become frequent is in cases in which people have been charged with wholesale pirating or copyrighted materials. In other words, people who have reproduced copyrighted materials -- primarily CDs and DVDs on a large (commercial) scale face criminal prosecution.

In fact, as the FBI warning notice set forth previously in this article indicates, the possible criminal penalty for copyright infringement is significant. If you were convicted of criminal copyright infringement you face a possible maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 monetary fine.