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Intellectual property

copyright infringement

Anyone who violates any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner as provided by sections 106 through 122 of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 (Copyright Act); or of the author as provided in section 106A(a) of the Copyright Act; or who imports copies or phonorecords into the United States in violation of section 602 of the Copyright Act, is an infringer of the copyright or right of the author, as the case may be. See 17 U.S.C. §501 to 17 U.S.C. §513.

How much of someone else's work can I use without getting permission?

Under the fair use doctrine of the U.S. copyright statute, it is permissible to use limited portions of a work including quotes, for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, and scholarly reports. There are no legal rules permitting the use of a specific number of words, a certain number of musical notes, or percentage of a work. Whether a particular use qualifies as fair use depends on all the circumstances.

How much do I have to change in order to claim copyright in someone else's work?

Only the owner of copyright in a work has the right to prepare, or to authorize someone else to create, a new version of that work. Accordingly, you cannot claim copyright to another's work, no matter how much you change it, unless you have the owner's consent.

Somebody infringed my copyright. What can I do?

A party may seek to protect their copyrights against unauthorized use by filing a civil lawsuit in federal district court. If you believe that your copyright has been infringed, consult an attorney. In cases of willful infringement for profit, the U.S. Attorney may initiate a criminal investigation.

If you use a copyrighted work without authorization, the owner may be entitled to bring an infringement action against you. There are circumstances under the fair use doctrine where a quote or a sample may be used without permission. However, in cases of doubt, the Copyright Office recommends that permission be obtained.

Is it legal to download works from peer-to-peer networks and if not, what is the penalty for doing so?

Uploading or downloading works protected by copyright without the authority of the copyright owner is an infringement of the copyright owner's exclusive rights of reproduction and/or distribution. Anyone found to have infringed a copyrighted work may be liable for statutory damages up to $30,000 for each work infringed and, if willful infringement is proven by the copyright owner, that amount may be increased up to $150,000 for each work infringed. In addition, an infringer of a work may also be liable for the attorney's fees incurred by the copyright owner to enforce his or her rights.

Whether or not a particular work is being made available under the authority of the copyright owner is a question of fact. But since any original work of authorship fixed in a tangible medium (including a computer file) is protected by federal copyright law upon creation, in the absence of clear information to the contrary, most works may be assumed to be protected by federal copyright law.

Since the files distributed over peer-to-peer networks are primarily copyrighted works, there is a risk of liability for downloading material from these networks. To avoid these risks, there are currently many "authorized" services on the Internet that allow consumers to purchase copyrighted works online, whether music, e-books, or motion pictures. By purchasing works through authorized services, consumers can avoid the risks of infringement liability and can limit their exposure to other potential risks, e.g., viruses, unexpected material, or spyware.

In Texas, as in all states, copyright infringement is governed by federal law, specifically the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976. Violating the exclusive rights of a copyright owner, as outlined in sections 106 through 122, or the rights of the author as provided in section 106A(a), or importing unauthorized copies as per section 602, constitutes infringement. Fair use allows for limited use of copyrighted material without permission for purposes like commentary or criticism, but there's no set amount of content (like words or notes) that can be used safely; it depends on the context. You cannot claim copyright on someone else's work regardless of how much you alter it, unless you have the owner's consent. If your copyright is infringed, you can file a civil lawsuit and possibly involve the U.S. Attorney for criminal investigation in cases of willful infringement for profit. Downloading from peer-to-peer networks without authorization is illegal and can lead to statutory damages, and possibly attorney's fees. To avoid infringement, it is recommended to use authorized services for purchasing copyrighted works.

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