infringement (of copyright)

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Generally, an infringement refers to the act of unlawful copying of material under intellectual property law. It is an act that interferes with the right of intellectual property ownership.

In a copyright infringement matter, the plaintiff would need to establish: 

  • Valid copyright ownership
  • The copying of elements of the original copyrighted work

A copyright owner has the following rights: 

  • To reproduce the work
  • To prepare derivative works based on the original work
  • To distribute copies of the copyrighted work
  • To perform certain copyright works in public
  • To demonstrate certain copyrighted works in public
  • To perform the copyrighted work for sound recordings
  • To import copies into the United States

In order to bring a copyright infringement claim, the plaintiff must prove that they hold the copyright interest through creation, assignment, or license. The plaintiff must also plead that the complaint is of an unlawful copy of the original element of the copyrighted work. To constitute an infringement, the derivative work must be based upon the copyrighted work. Although the Copyright Act does not provide an explicit definition of infringement, it is understood that unauthorized usage of the copyrighted material is inconsistent with the exclusive enumerated rights. This constitutes copyright infringement under federal law. See: Teleprompter Corp. v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc.

[Last updated in April of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]