Copyright Infringement



A. Scope.

This paper addresses practical aspects of a typical copyright infringement case, a deceptively simple subject. Plaintiff introduces its copyright registration, proves defendant copied too much of the registered work, and submits its damages. Full stop. In practice, however, a copyright case is like a jigsaw puzzle, the omission of any piece being fatal.

B. “The Good Book”

“Go read Title 17” is no more a sufficient basis for trying copyright cases than merely reading The Good Book (be it the Koran, Torah, Bible, Bhagavad-Gita, etc.) is sufficient for ranking the relative moral appropriateness of new medical procedures. The terrain has changed in ways undreamt of when Title 17 was enacted in 1976.2 What 1976 statutory standards determine whether linking, publishing thumbnail images, or digitally sampling infringe? Knowing the case law is needed to litigate copyright cases.

Nevertheless, a successful copyright litigator must be able to cite the appropriate Title 17 section the way the preacher/rabb /mullah/priest cites chapter and verse from The Good Book. Although Title 17 is incomprehensible if read straight through, ripping out its mind-numbing sections on compulsory licensing for jukeboxes, exceptions for public broadcasting, etc.,4 leaves only a couple dozen key sections. These are quoted at the beginning of each part of this paper. They need to be read, re-read, marked up and annotated because they determine whether you win or lose.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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