Copyright Infringement

Copyright infringement is the illegal use, production, or sale of materials copyrighted by another person or organization. When rights granted to the copyright holder like revenue, licensing fees, and recognition for their work are diverted to a third party, this is an instance of copyright infringement.

Copyrights granted by state or federal authorities last for a fixed period. Globally most copyrights last between 50 and 100 years. After the copyright’s term expires, the copyright enters the public domain, where any person is free to use the intellectual property without consequence.

Copyright infringement issues are most prevalent in technology, creative arts, and international issues, where ownership over original ideas and works are of high proprietary value.

Less technical terms used in place of copyright infringement include piracy and theft.

How is copyright infringement used?

Starting with the invention of the printing press, publishers with resources could print and sell books they didn’t create or own.

This earliest form of copyright infringement proved to hurt the development of a market economy as artists, writers, creators, engineers, and thought leaders had no ability to prevent others from reproducing, selling, and profiting from the original works. Copyright infringement standards, in turn, enable fair competition in a marketplace and appropriate use of copyright materials and reduce the copyright owner’s need to protect their intellectual property actively.

Copyright infringement vs. fair use

Copyright laws provide for exceptions to using copyrighted material so that every use or similarity does not end in civil disputes. These exceptions are referred to as fair use, and are not considered copyright infringement. Examples for fair use of copyrights typically alter the original work by adding commentary, criticism, or parodying the copyrighted work.

Legal cases involving copyright infringement often feature the defendant arguing that reproduction or use of the original work fell under fair use.

Examples of copyright infringement

Davidson v. United States

In 2018, the United States Postal Service (USPS) used the Statue of Liberty to design U.S. postage stamps. It was later discovered the USPS had modeled the stamp after a replica of Lady Liberty located in Las Vegas, not the New York City national landmark.

The original sculptor of the Las Vegas replica, Robert Davidson, was awarded more than $3.5 million when the court held his work was authentic, and the stamp’s design was copyright infringement.

Oracle v. Google

In a series of cases dating to 2010, Google has received scrutiny for its use of Oracle’s Java APIs. First ruled in Google’s favor in district court, the Appellate court struck down the earlier ruling and vilified Google for their perceived copyright infringement.

In April 2021, the Supreme Court ruled Google’s use of Oracle APIs was within the bounds of fair use.

How to type the copyright symbol on your keyboard

Operating System Description
Mac Hold Option button + hit G
Windows Hold ALT button + type 0169

Further Reading

Related Terms

Sam Ingalls
Sam Ingalls
Sam Ingalls is an award-winning writer and researcher covering enterprise technology, cybersecurity, data centers, and IT trends, for eSecurity Planet, TechRepublic, ServerWatch, Webopedia, and Channel Insider.

Related Articles

Stealth Mode

Stealth mode is a business term that is commonly used to describe taking on new business opportunities, projects, or company initiatives privately. It is...


A copyright is a type of intellectual property and legal ownership relating to creative works, ensuring only the owner has rights to the work’s...

Public Domain

The public domain describes the status of intellectual property or copyrighted work that is freely available for use and reproduction by anyone. Public domain books,...


ScalaHosting is a leading managed hosting provider that offers secure, scalable, and affordable...


Human resources information system (HRIS) solutions help businesses manage multiple facets of their...

Best Managed Service Providers...

In today's business world, managed services are more critical than ever. They can...