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Criminal copyright infringement is an offense that is punishable under federal law. If you are under investigation or have been charged formerly for engaging in copyright infringement activity, you might be interested to know the federal sentencing guidelines for criminal copyright cases. The sentencing guidelines is a manual that that judges follow while deciding on whether one is guilty of a copyright offense or not. The manual also contains guidelines on the sentence or penalty to be passed in case one is found guilty.
If you have violated the copyright law, it is highly possible that you can go to jail. If you made these violations willingly and involved a certain amount of infringement, then some penalties will be prescribed. For copyright owners, they would be interested to know that there is a very high number of people who are facing criminal penalties for copyright infringement.
The base level for criminal infringement of copyright or trademark offense is level 8. After that, each case will be gauged independently based on its characteristics. Additional levels will depend on the nature of the crime. It is important to know that the sentence in criminal infringement copyright or trademark cannot be reduced below level 8.
If the infringement amount is less than $5000 but exceeds $2000, the sentencing guidelines for criminal infringement of copyright or trademark demand that the sentencing or penalty be increased by one level. If the infringement amount exited $5000, the number of levels to be added would be determined under table§2B1.1 depending on the amount. This table shows different sentencing guidelines for crimes such as theft, property destruction, and fraud.
If one is accused of committing an offense which involved the performance, display, reproduction, publication, or distribution of copyright work, the guidelines demanded that two levels increase the sentencing. It is also important to note that one will still be sentenced under this guideline if found in possession of materials that are ready for commercial distribution.
If the offense involves uploading, importation, or manufacturer of infringing items, the defendant will be sentenced under 117 U.S.C. §§ 1201 and 1204, and the sentencing will be increased by two levels. If such an offense is classified at a level of less than 12, the guidelines demand that it be increased to level 12.
If a defendant engaged in a copyright offense with no intentions of commercial or personal financial gains, the sentencing level is reduced by two levels, but it is still won’t be less than level 8.
If the copyright infringement offense caused a reckless high risk of death or adverse bodily injury in the full knowledge of the defendant, the sentencing would be increased by two levels. The same case applies to a situation where the defendant used a dangerous weapon in the process of committing the offense. However, the base sentencing level for crimes under this category is 14. In case the offense level is less than 14, it should be increased to 14 automatically.
Although copyright infringement comes under civil cases, they can still be pursued for a criminal offense. In the case of the civil statute of limitations, the prosecution has three years to get an indictment. For a criminal case, the statute of limitations is five years. It is the role of the prosecutor to show that the defendant willingly violated the copyright laws by willingly infringing the copyright to gain commercial advantage or to get personal financial gains.
Action such as producing or distributing copies of copyrighted work with a retail value of more than $1000 and for six months we’ll automatically qualify as an offense. Persons can also be charged for distributing work that was initially meant for commercial distribution but makes it possible for the public to access such work through illegal means. If the defendant knew that the work was meant for commercial distribution he or she has no right to make such work accessible on a computer network. If you are convicted of making it possible for the public to access copyrighted work through a computer network, the fine can be up to $500,000 or serve a jail term of five years, or even both. In case you commit subsequent offenses the fine will go up to $1 million and jail time of 10 years, or both.
If you are under investigations or have been charged for allegations of involvement in criminal copyright infringement, it is highly important that you ensure that you seek the assistance of a criminal defense lawyer who is conversant with criminal infringement laws. The punishment for such offenses is adverse and you should not take the matter for granted. Seeking the services of a lawyer who has a history of dealing with such cases is an added advantage. You will also need a lawyer who is conversant with the laws in your jurisdiction.