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1840. Copyright Law -- Introduction

This chapter outlines the criminal copyright laws to assist United States Attorneys in effectively enforcing these laws in appropriate cases. The law of copyright is codified at Title 17 of the United States Code. The principal prohibitions relating to criminal copyright infringement are set forth at 17 U.S.C. § 506(a) and 18 U.S.C. § 2319. Titles 17 and 18 also contain a number of other provisions that make illegal certain practices which are inconsistent with Congress' copyright protection scheme. In the past several years, these criminal sanctions have been revised significantly, and the penalties for criminal infringement of copyrights have been increased. Under the Copyright Felony Act of 1992, Pub. L. No. 102-561, 106 Stat. 4233 (1992), infringement of a copyrighted work may now constitute a felony under federal law, depending on the number of infringing copies reproduced or distributed in a 180-day period, and their retail value. See 18 U.S.C. § 2319.

This chapter should be read (and prosecutions should be conducted) with due consideration to other criminal and civil laws protecting intellectual property owners and the public from violations, including, for example, the trademark counterfeiting statute. See 18 U.S.C. § 2320; JM 9-68.000 (Trademark Counterfeiting). Prosecutors are also encouraged to consult the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section's Intellectual Property Rights Prosecution Manual.

Updated January 17, 2020