The federal government has made prosecuting copyright infringement a high priority. In part, that heightened interest stems from our global economy where it is common practice for goods to be manufactured overseas, purchased online and shipped overnight to the United States, making it difficult to ensure that sellers are licensed to sell the goods or fraudulently presented a good's copyright in the marketplace.
Copyright infringement can be prosecuted in the civil or criminal context. If prosecuted criminally, the government must prove (1) that a valid copyright existed, (2) that the defendant infringed that copyright, (3) the infringement was made knowingly, and (4) the infringement was done to obtain financial gain or commercial advantage.
The penalties for violating copyright laws are severe so it is critical to understand that there are full defenses to copyright infringement, including the doctrine of first sale, independent creation, and fair use.
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