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Criminal Resource Manual

1860. Copyright Infringement -- Statute Of Limitations

It is important to note that criminal copyright infringement under 17 U.S.C. § 506(a) and related offenses under Title 18 are subject to different statutes of limitations. Prosecutions of Title 18 offenses generally must be commenced within five years of the date of the crime itself. See 18 U.S.C. § 3282. In contrast, 17 U.S.C. § 507(a) provides that "[n]o criminal proceedings shall be maintained under the provisions of this title unless it is commenced within three years after the cause of action arose." See United States v. Shabazz, 724 F.2d 1536, 1540 (11th Cir. 1984). Thus, felony cases of criminal copyright infringement under section 2319 of Title 18 also must be brought within three years of the commission of the crime, as the statute which contains the actual criminal prohibition is 17 U.S.C. §  506.

PRACTICE TIP: In some cases, Title 17 offenses which are clearly barred by the statute of limitations may still be prosecutable as violations of Title 18.

[cited in USAM 9-71.001]