Whether you download a single song without paying for it or get an entire full version copy of the newest Adobe Photoshop for free, you can be charged with a crime.
It is crucial to remember that piracy comes in all shapes and sizes these days.
Due to the advent of the Internet, you might even think that your actions are totally allowed when, in reality, they could land you in prison and ruin your life. The worst part about piracy (i.e. online copyright infringement) is the false sense of security you get when you do it.
Although far from a victimless crime, you are far away from the company or person you are stealing from and have the illusion of anonymity. However, make no mistake; people are getting caught more than ever before. If you are facing piracy charges, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney today.
What is Piracy?
Many of us conjure up pictures of swashbuckling pirates, boats, cannons, and swordfights when we hear the term “piracy.” However, in the eyes of the criminal law, piracy is a catch-all term for any type of unlawful duplication, distribution, infringement, or outright theft of someone else’s intellectual property. Intellectual property consists of one’s ideas that are expressed in intangible works like movies, video games, music, stories, and software.
Debunking the Online Piracy Myth
We cannot stress how important it is to understand the ramifications of your digital actions. You might be thinking, “If it was illegal to download, the website would not be allowed to have the file on its server.” However, this is not always true. Intermediaries (like website owners and online service providers) are entitled to a great deal of protection while you and their other end-users are left holding the bag.
For example, §512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (in most cases) specifically prevents an online service provider or website owner from bearing the brunt of liability for the infringement of its users.
Essentially, the statute leaves the end-user with all of the criminal culpability unless the provider knew or should have known about the infringement. Such a result shatters the “if it is on the Internet, I can get away with downloading it” mentality. In reality, it is the exact opposite: You will bear most (if not all) of the responsibility if you commit online piracy.
What You Cannot Do
Although it happens on a regular basis, it is unlawful to download copyrighted music, video games, computer games, software, etc. that you did not pay for. Doing this amounts to copyright infringement and can cause you to be charged with a federal crime.
According to to17 USC § 506, if you willfully infringe copyright for the purpose of deriving private financial gain (which is most people’s motivation when they commit piracy), you can go to federal prison for up to 5 years and be compelled to pay a fine of up to $250,000.
If you think that you are not standing to privately gain financially, think again. Software programs, video games, movies, and even songs all cost serious money. When you get them for free, the law will almost always consider that to be a financial gain.
What the Law Lets You Do
Take solace; there are certain things that you are allowed to do that are not considered piracy/copyright infringement. According to §1201(a)(1)(B) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, you are allowed to use a copyright-protected work in a non-infringing manner so long as the work is part of a class that the Library of Congress established.
This technical jargon means that you can copy your own CDs, DVDs, software, and video games so long as you do so in a non-infringing manner (i.e. you do it for your own personal use after already legally purchasing the work).
Also, every so often, the Library of Congress will add a new “class” of works. This is precisely why it is now perfectly legal to “jailbreak” your iPhone (although Apple will void your warranty if you do). The key here is that the law is not going to let you get something for free, but it also is not going to make you pay twice.
Essentially, if you already bought Microsoft Word and simply want a backup copy, the law will let you make one. However, if you download a free, full version copy of it from some “warez” site, you can go to jail. Be sure to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you better understand your legal rights and defend your liberty.
Who Should I Contact?
If you or a loved one has been charged with piracy or online copyright infringement, contact Adam H. Rosenblum of Rosenblum Law today. His team of attorneys will do what they can to protect your legal rights and fight to keep you out of prison. E-mail or call 888-815-3649 today.