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Copyright Infringement Penalties

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Manish Jindal

August 25, 2023

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Copyright infringement penalties are not a joke! As a creator, you should understand the serious consequences of copyright infringement in the digital world.

Lights, Camera, Action! But wait, who owns the rights to that spectacular scene you’ve just shared? In the digital era, it’s easier than ever to share, duplicate, and even misappropriate creative works without considering the potential consequences.

Welcome to the wild west of infringement of copyright, where artistic masterpieces and intellectual property are at the mercy of a simple copy-paste.

In today’s blog, we’re diving headfirst into the murky waters of infringement penalties, exploring everything from cease and desist orders to the hefty fines that could leave your wallet weeping.

So, buckle up and join us as we unravel the complex web of legal repercussions that may await those who dare to disregard the rights of creative visionaries!

And who knows, by the end of this electrifying journey, you might just become a champion of intellectual property rights yourself!

Copyright Infringement in India

In the land of rich cultural heritage and diverse artistic traditions, India is no stranger to the concept of protection.

But what happens when someone in India crosses the line and infringes on another’s creative work? Let’s delve into the world of infringement in India and shed light on its legal aspects.

An infringement case happens when someone uses, reproduces, distributes the work without seeking any prior permission from the creator.

It is also known as the unauthorised use of the original work. The work falls into several categories such as literary work, artistic, music or software.

Indian Copyright Act – 1957

The Indian Copyright Act of 1957, amended in 2012, governs protection and provides the legal framework for dealing with infringement cases in India.

This legislation not only grants exclusive rights to the creators of original works but also sets out the penalties for those who unlawfully use or exploit such intellectual property.

Civil remedies include injunctions, statutory damages, or accounts of profits, while criminal penalties range from imprisonment (up to 3 years) to fines (up to INR 200,000, which is approximately USD 2,700).

There is also exception to the infringement case that is “fair use” which allows the limited use of the original work without any prior permission.

Examples include using the work for educational purposes, criticism, or review. However, these exceptions are subject to strict conditions, and any use beyond their scope may still constitute infringement.

In summary, infringement in India is a serious offence with potential civil and criminal consequences. It is essential to respect the intellectual property rights of creators and seek permission before using their work to avoid legal troubles.

What are the Types of Copyright Infringement?

Copyright infringement can happen in different forms that includes the nature of the original work and the misused form.


There are some types of copyright infringement that helps us to understand profound area of intellectual property law.

Direct infringement: Direct infringement is nothing but when someone allegedly reproduces, distributes, performs a work without the permission of owner.

This includes copying and sharing text, images, music, or videos without proper authorization.

Indirect (contributory) infringement: A person or entity may be held liable for indirect infringement if they facilitate or enable copyright infringement by others. Examples include providing a platform for sharing content without permission or selling a device designed to circumvent protection mechanisms.

Vicarious infringement: This happens when an individual or entity can control the actions of someone and benefits financially from the actions. This happens even if they didn’t actively participate in the infringement.

For instance, a website owner may be held vicariously liable if they profit from advertising revenue generated by hosting content without permission.

Online infringement: Because of the arrival of internet, infringement has become more prevalent in the digital space.

This includes unauthorised file sharing, streaming copyrighted content without permission, or using images on websites, blogs, or social media platforms.

Derivative works infringement: A derivative work is a new creation based on an existing copyrighted work, such as translations, adaptations, or transformations. Infringement can occur if someone creates a derivative work without obtaining the original holders’ permission.

Moral rights infringement: In addition to economic rights, law also recognises moral rights, which protect the author’s personal connection to their work. These include the right of attribution (being identified as the author) and the right of integrity (preventing distortion, mutilation, or modification of the work). Infringement of moral rights occurs when these rights are violated without the author’s consent.

Understanding these various types of infringement is crucial for both creators and users of copyrighted material. By respecting the rights of original creators, we can promote a healthy creative ecosystem that fosters innovation and artistic expression.

Image Copyright Infringement Penalties

Civil remedies may include monetary compensation, injunctions, account of profits, and delivery up of infringing copies.

Criminal penalties can involve imprisonment and fines, with severity depending on factors such as jurisdiction, the nature of the infringement, and whether it is a first or subsequent conviction.

Music Copyright Infringement Penalties

Civil remedies may include monetary damages, injunctions, and account of profits.

Criminal penalties can involve imprisonment and fines, with severity depending on factors such as jurisdiction, the nature of the infringement, and prior convictions.

Procedure to Claim Copyright Infringement in India

Collect evidence: Gather evidence of your ownership of the work and any instances of infringement. This can include the original work, date of creation or publication, registration details (if registered), and screenshots or links to the infringing material.

Consult a legal expert: Seek advice from an intellectual property lawyer who is experienced in copyright law in India.

Legal expert will help you realise our rights, assess the infringement claim and guide on the best action.

Send a cease and desist notice:

You can also send a cease and desist letter to the copyright infringer before initiating legal action

The notice should outline the infringement, demand that the infringing material be removed, and request an assurance that the infringement will not continue. In many cases, this way is enough to solve the issues.

Initiate civil action: You can file a lawsuit in the appropriate district court if the infringer doesn’t comply with the cease and desist notice.

The court may grant remedies such as injunctions (to stop further infringement), actual damages (to compensate for losses), or accounts of profits (to recover the infringer’s profits).

Initiate criminal action: In addition to civil remedies, copyright infringement can also attract criminal penalties for copyright infringement under the Indian Act.

If you initiate criminal proceedings against the infringer, you can also file a complaint.

Criminal penalties can include imprisonment and fines.

Monitor and enforce the court order: If you obtain a favourable judgment, it’s essential to ensure that the infringer complies with the court’s orders.

If the copyright infringer fails to accept the infringement and take down your content, you should take legal action to enforce judgement.

What is the Penalty for Copyright Infringement?

Penalty for Copyright Infringement & Copyright Infringement Fine in India and US

The copyright infringement penalty in India and the United States differ due to the variations in their respective copyright laws. Here is a comparison of the penalties in both countries:

India:

Civil remedies:

  • Monetary compensation: The infringer may be required to pay damages to the copyright owner for any losses suffered due to the infringement.
  • Injunctions: Courts may issue orders directing the infringer to stop the unauthorised use of the copyrighted material.
  • Account of profits: The infringer may be required to hand over any profits gained through the unauthorised use of copyrighted material.
  • Delivery up: Courts may order the infringer to hand over all infringing copies and related materials to the copyright owner.
  1. Criminal penalties:
  • Imprisonment: For the first conviction, the infringer may face imprisonment between six months and three years. For subsequent convictions, imprisonment may range from one year to three years.
  • Fines: Fines for the first conviction may range between INR 50,000 (about $660) and INR 200,000 (about $2,640). For subsequent convictions, fines may range between INR 100,000 (about $1,320) and INR 200,000 (about $2,640).

Civil remedies:

  • Monetary damages: The infringer may be required to pay actual damages and any profits made from the unauthorised use of copyrighted material, or statutory damages ranging from $750 to $30,000 per infringed work. In cases of willful infringement, statutory damages can be up to $150,000 per work.
  • Injunctions: Courts may issue orders directing the infringer to stop the unauthorised use of copyrighted material and remove it from circulation.
  • Attorney’s fees and court costs: The infringer may be required to pay for the copyright holder’s legal expenses.
  1. Criminal penalties:
  • Fines: The fines for criminal copyright infringement can be substantial, depending on the severity of the offence and whether it was committed for financial gain.
  • Imprisonment: For first-time offenders, the maximum prison term is typically up to five years for felony copyright infringement, while repeat offenders can face up to ten years.
  • Seizure and forfeiture: Authorities may seize and destroy any infringing materials or equipment used in the commission of the infringement.

The exact penalties for copyright infringement depend on the specific circumstances of the case and the jurisdiction.

It is essential to consult with an attorney familiar with the applicable laws for accurate guidance on potential penalties for copyright infringement.

What is the Maximum Penalty for Copyright Infringement?

The maximum penalty for copyright infringement varies depending on the jurisdiction and whether the infringement is considered a civil or criminal offence. Generally, penalties can include monetary damages, imprisonment, fines, and other remedies. Here is a general overview of the maximum penalties:

  • Monetary damages: In some jurisdictions, there may be no specific cap on actual damages and the infringer’s profits. However, statutory damages, which are predetermined amounts per infringed work, often have maximum limits. For example, in the United States, statutory damages can range from $750 to $30,000 per work, or up to $150,000 per work in cases of willful infringement.
  • Injunctions: Courts may issue orders to stop the unauthorised use of the copyrighted material, remove it from circulation, or destroy any infringing copies. The extent of an injunction can vary depending on the case and jurisdiction.
  • Imprisonment: The maximum prison sentence for copyright infringement varies by country and the severity of the offence. In the United States, for instance, a felony copyright infringement conviction can result in up to five years in prison for first-time offenders and up to ten years for repeat offenders.
  • Fines: The maximum fines for copyright infringement can be substantial, depending on the jurisdiction and the nature of the infringement. In the United States, fines for criminal copyright infringement can be up to $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for organisations.

Punishments for Copyright Infringers in India – A Detailed View

In India, copyright infringement can lead to both civil and criminal liabilities, with penalties that can significantly impact the infringer.

Here’s an overview of the punishments for infringement in India:

Civil Remedies


1. Injunctions

Injunctions are legal orders issued by a court to compel or restrain a party from engaging in specific actions.

In the context of infringement in India, injunctions are a common civil remedy used to protect the rights of copyright owners by stopping the unauthorised use of their work.

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There are two main types of injunctions in copyright infringement cases:

Temporary (Interlocutory) Injunction: A temporary injunction is a provisional order granted during the course of litigation to maintain the status quo and prevent further harm to the owner.

This type of injunction is issued before the final judgment, often after considering factors such as the balance of convenience, the likelihood of irreparable harm, and the probability of success on the merits of the case.

A temporary injunction can be granted at any stage of the legal proceedings and remains in effect until the court decides otherwise or the case is resolved.

Permanent Injunction: A permanent injunction is granted as part of the final judgment in a copyright infringement case. It serves as a conclusive order that prohibits the infringer from continuing the unauthorised use of the work.

A permanent injunction is granted when the court determines that the copyright owner has established a clear case of infringement and that monetary damages alone would be inadequate to remedy the harm caused.

In such cases, the infringer is legally obligated to cease all infringing activities, and failure to comply with the injunction may result in contempt of court proceedings and additional penalties.

2. Additional Damages

Damages are a form of monetary compensation awarded to the owner for the financial losses and harm caused by the infringement of their intellectual property rights.

In India, damages in infringement cases serve several purposes, including compensating the copyright owner, deterring future infringement, and emphasizing the value of intellectual property rights.

The amount of damages awarded in a copyright infringement case is determined based on various factors, such as:

Actual damages: Actual damages are calculated based on the quantifiable financial losses suffered by the copyright owner due to the infringement.

This may include lost sales, lost licensing fees, or a reduction in the market value of the work. The copyright owner must present evidence to substantiate their claim for actual damages, such as records of sales or licensing agreements.

Infringer’s profits: In some cases, the court may award damages based on the profits the infringer gained from the unauthorised use of the copyrighted work. This is done to prevent the infringer from unjustly benefiting from the infringement and to ensure that they do not profit from their wrongful actions.

Statutory damages: Statutory damages are predefined amounts of compensation prescribed by law, which may be awarded in lieu of actual damages or infringer’s profits.

The advantage of statutory damages is that they do not require the owner to prove their actual financial losses. However, India does not have a provision for statutory damages under its law, unlike some other jurisdictions like the United States.

Exemplary or punitive damages: In cases where the infringement is particularly egregious or deliberate, the court may award exemplary or punitive damages.

These damages are meant to punish the infringer for their willful misconduct and serve as a deterrent to others who may contemplate engaging in similar behaviour.

3. Accounts of Profits

Accounts of profits is a legal remedy available to copyright owners in India, which allows them to recover the profits made by the infringer as a result of the unauthorised use of their copyrighted work.

This remedy is based on the principle of unjust enrichment, which prevents the infringer from retaining the financial gains obtained through the infringement of someone else’s intellectual property rights.

The primary purpose of claiming an account of profits is to ensure that the infringer does not profit from their wrongful conduct, rather than compensating the owner for their financial losses (as in the case of damages).

In some instances, the owner may opt for this remedy if it is believed that the profits made by the infringer are greater than the actual damages suffered by the owner.

Here’s how the process of claiming an account of profits typically unfolds:

Election of remedy: The copyright owner must choose between claiming damages or an account of profits, as they cannot claim both simultaneously.

This decision should be made after carefully evaluating the potential financial outcome of each remedy and in consultation with a legal expert.

Discovery and disclosure: The copyright owner needs to gather information about the infringer’s revenues and profits generated from the unauthorised use of the work.

This may involve a discovery process, wherein the court orders the infringer to disclose relevant financial records and documents.

Calculation of profits: Once the financial information has been obtained, the copyright owner must determine the profits directly attributable to the infringement.

This can be a complex task, as it may involve separating the infringer’s profits derived from the infringement from those generated through other, legitimate means.

Deduction of expenses: The infringer is allowed to deduct certain expenses incurred in generating the profits from the infringement, such as manufacturing or marketing costs.

However, the infringer cannot deduct expenses that are unrelated to the infringement or those that would have been incurred regardless of the infringement.

Award of profits: After calculating the net profits derived from the infringement, the court may order the infringer to pay this amount to the copyright owner as a remedy for the infringement.

Criminal Penalties


1. Imprisonment

Imprisonment is one of the criminal penalties prescribed under the Indian Copyright Act of 1957 for copyright infringement.

The purpose of imposing imprisonment as a punishment is to emphasise the seriousness of copyright infringement as an offence and to deter potential infringers from engaging in such unauthorised activities.

For the first offense of copyright infringement, the infringer may be subject to imprisonment for a term that ranges from a minimum of six months to a maximum of three years.

The actual duration of imprisonment is determined by the court based on the specific circumstances of the case, the extent of the infringement, and the infringer’s intent.

Several factors may influence the length of imprisonment imposed by the court, including:

The nature and scope of the infringement: The court will consider the severity of the infringement, such as whether it was a large-scale operation or an isolated incident, and the number of works involved in the infringement.

The infringer’s intent: The court will examine whether the infringement was a willful act, committed with the knowledge that it was a violation of the copyright owner’s rights, or if it was an unintentional act resulting from ignorance or negligence.

The impact on the copyright owner: The court may also take into account the financial and reputational harm caused to the copyright owner due to the infringement.

The infringer’s prior record: If the infringer has a history of infringement or other criminal offenses, the court may consider this when determining the length of imprisonment.

Mitigating factors: The court may also consider any mitigating factors presented by the infringer, such as their age, mental capacity, or personal circumstances, which may have influenced their actions.

2. Fines

Fines are another form of criminal penalty imposed under the Indian Copyright Act of 1957 for copyright infringement.

In addition to imprisonment, the infringer may be required to pay a monetary fine as a punishment for their unlawful actions.

The imposition of fines serves as a deterrent for potential infringers and emphasizes the importance of respecting intellectual property rights.

For copyright infringement, the infringer may be subject to a fine ranging from INR 50,000 (approximately USD 670) to INR 200,000 (approximately USD 2,700).

The actual amount of the fine is determined by the court, taking into account various factors such as the nature and extent of the infringement, the impact on the owner, the infringer’s intent, and any mitigating or aggravating circumstances.

Here are some factors that may influence the amount of fine imposed by the court:

Severity of the infringement: The court will consider the scope and scale of the infringement, including the number of copyrighted works involved and whether the infringement was part of a larger, organized operation.

Financial gain obtained by the infringer: The court may take into account the profits made by the infringer as a result of the unauthorised use of the copyrighted work. A higher fine may be imposed if the infringer gained substantial financial benefits from the infringement.

Harm caused to the copyright owner: The court may consider the financial and reputational damage suffered by the copyright owner due to the infringement, and adjust the fine accordingly.

Infringer’s intent: If the infringement was committed willfully and with the knowledge that it violated the copyright owner’s rights, the court may impose a higher fine. On the other hand, if the infringement resulted from ignorance or negligence, the court may impose a lower fine.

Infringer’s prior record: The court may consider the infringer’s history of copyright infringement or other criminal offenses when determining the amount of the fine.

Mitigating factors: Any mitigating factors presented by the infringer, such as their age, mental capacity, or personal circumstances, may influence the court’s decision on the amount of the fine.

The imposition of fines serves to emphasise the seriousness of copyright infringement and deter potential infringers from engaging in unauthorised use of copyrighted works.

3. Enhanced penalties for subsequent offenses

Enhanced penalties for subsequent offences are provisions under the Indian Copyright Act of 1957 designed to deter repeat offenders and emphasise the importance of respecting intellectual property rights.

If the infringer has a prior conviction for copyright infringement, the penalties for any subsequent offences become more severe, reflecting the increased culpability of the infringer and the need for stronger deterrent measures.

In cases where the infringer has a history of copyright infringement, the following enhanced penalties may apply:

Imprisonment: The term of imprisonment for subsequent offences is increased, with the minimum duration set at one year and the maximum at three years. The actual length of imprisonment is determined by the court, taking into account the specific circumstances of the case, the nature and extent of the infringement, the infringer’s intent, and any mitigating or aggravating factors.

Fines: The range of fines for subsequent offences is also increased. The minimum fine is raised to INR 100,000 (approximately USD 1,340), while the maximum remains at INR 200,000 (approximately USD 2,700).

The court will consider various factors, such as the severity of the infringement, the financial gain obtained by the infringer, the harm caused to the copyright owner, the infringer’s intent, and any mitigating or aggravating circumstances, when determining the appropriate fine.

These enhanced penalties serve several purposes:

Deterrence: The increased severity of the penalties for repeat offenders is intended to deter potential infringers from engaging in copyright infringement, knowing that the legal consequences become more serious with each offence.


Denunciation: Enhanced penalties reflect society’s disapproval of repeat offenders and emphasise the importance of respecting intellectual property rights.


Rehabilitation: The threat of harsher penalties for subsequent offences may encourage infringers to change their behaviour and avoid further violations of copyright law.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the issue of punishment for copyright infringement remains an essential and ever-evolving debate in our contemporary society.

As a creator, we have to protect our creative work from the infringement.

In this blog, we have listed the punishments as well as the remedies for the copyright infringement. Hope this article has helped you understand the crucial steps.


FAQs

What is copyright infringement?

Copyright infringement occurs when someone uses a copyrighted work without the permission of the copyright owner, thereby violating the exclusive rights granted to the owner, such as reproduction, distribution, public performance, or adaptation of the work.

How long can an infringer be imprisoned for a first-time offense?

For a first-time offence of copyright infringement, the imprisonment term may range from a minimum of six months to a maximum of three years, depending on the specific circumstances of the case.

What is the range of fines for copyright infringement?

The infringer may be subject to a fine ranging from INR 50,000 (approximately USD 670) to INR 200,000 (approximately USD 2,700) for copyright infringement.

What are the increased penalties for repeat copyright infringement offences?

For subsequent offences of copyright infringement, the imprisonment term may range from one year to three years, and the fine may range from INR 100,000 (approximately USD 1,340) to INR 200,000 (approximately USD 2,700).

What is an injunction in the context of copyright infringement?

An injunction is a legal order issued by a court to compel or restrain a party from engaging in specific actions. In copyright infringement cases, an injunction may be granted to prevent further infringement of the copyrighted work, either temporarily during litigation or permanently as part of the final judgment.

What is the difference between damages and accounts of profits?

Damages are monetary compensation awarded to the copyright owner for their financial losses due to the infringement, while accounts of profits is a remedy that allows the copyright owner to recover the profits made by the infringer as a result of the unauthorised use of their work.

Are statutory damages available for copyright infringement in India?

No, India does not have a provision for statutory damages under its copyright law, unlike some other jurisdictions like the United States.

How can I report copyright infringement in India?

To report copyright infringement in India, you may consult with an intellectual property attorney or file a complaint with the local police. An attorney can guide you through the process and help you gather the necessary evidence to support your claim.

Can I be held liable for copyright infringement if I was not aware that the work was copyrighted?

Yes, you can still be held liable for copyright infringement, even if you were not aware that the work was copyrighted. Ignorance or lack of intent does not exempt you from liability, although it may be considered as a mitigating factor when determining the penalties imposed by the court.

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