Statutory damages are a type of damages awarded in a successful claim to compensate for an injury or loss, whose amount is pre-established by statute. Statutory damages are commonly used in areas of the law in which it might be complex to establish the degree of harm or loss caused to the plaintiff.
For example, in a copyright infringement lawsuit, section 504 of the Copyright Act provides that “…the copyright owner may elect, at any time before final judgment is rendered, to recover, instead of actual damages and profits, an award of statutory damages for all infringements involved in the action…in a sum of not less than $750 or more than $30,000 as the court considers just. In a case where the copyright owner sustains the burden of proving, and the court finds, that infringement was committed willfully, the court in its discretion may increase the award of statutory damages to a sum of not more than $150,000. In a case where the infringer sustains the burden of proving, and the court finds, that such infringer was not aware and had no reason to believe that his or her acts constituted an infringement of copyright, the court in its discretion may reduce the award of statutory damages to a sum of not less than $200.”
[Last updated in August of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]