What is copyright infringement? (Meaning, types and examples)


Today I’m going to cover copyright infringement.

Here you will learn what is copyright infringement, copyright infringement examples, types of copyright infringement, etc.

Let’s get started

What is copyright infringement?

Copyright infringement or copyright violation means unauthorized use of copyrighted material/work that is covered by copyright law in a manner that violates one of the copyright owner’s exclusive rights such as the right to reproduce, perform, distribute, rent, or translate. Or; doing any restricted acts in relation to the copyrighted work without permission or authorization of the owner of that work.

Examples of Copyright infringement

Every unauthorized use of any literary or artistic work may be a good example of copyright infringement. But the common Copyright infringement examples include;

  1. Reproduction of the copyrighted work like Copying music, movies, or videos to CDs
  2. Distribution of the copyrighted work like sharing books, or music on social networks or through other means like Bluetooth, or through the flash disc
  3. Translation of the work like the translation of books, articles, or any literary works from one language to another
  4. Rental of the original work
  5. Public exhibition, performance, or other communication to the public of the work

Types of copyright infringement

There are two types of copyright infringement i.e primary or direct copyright infringement and secondary or contributory copyright infringement.

Primary copyright infringement

Primary copyright infringement is a type of copyright infringement whereby a person directly engages himself in performing restricted acts. For example a person copy music without the permission of the owner. This is also known as direct infringement.

How to prove primary copyright infringement

There are three elements of primary copyright infringement i.e Objective similarity, Substantiality, and Causal connection

Therefore, in a claim/case for primary infringement, the burden falls upon the claimant to show on the balance of probabilities that:

The defendant carried out one of the activities which fall within the copyright owner’s control (Objective similarity);

The defendant’s work was derived from the copyrighted work (‘causal connection’) and;

The restricted act was carried out in relation to the work or a substantial part thereof

Generally, the copyright owner should be awarded sufficiently and no one should be allowed to earn from the efforts of another.

As per Lord Bingham:

“The law of copyright rests on a very clear principle: that anyone who by his or her own skill and labor creates an original work of whatever character shall, for a limited period, enjoy an exclusive right to copy that work. No one else may for a season reap what the copyright owner has sown.”-Designers Guild v Rusell William [2001] 1WLR 2416 (HL)

Secondary copyright infringement

Secondary copyright infringement is the type of copyright infringement that happens by distributing or dealing with infringing copies once they have been made; or by facilitating any form of infringement by providing the equipment or means that enable the infringement to take place.

Secondary infringement is also referred to as contributory infringement.

Generally, Secondary copyright Infringement includes;

  1. Importing infringing copy
  2. Selling/letting infringing copy
  3. Exhibit infringing copy
  4. Distributing infringing copy
  5. Etc.

Differences Between primary copyright infringement and secondary copyright infringement

Primary infringement is concerned with people who are directly involved in the reproduction, performance (etc.) of the copyrighted work. In contrast, secondary infringement is concerned with people in a commercial context who either, deal with infringing copies, facilitate such copying or facilitate public performance.

The state of mind of the defendant is not formally taken into account when deciding whether an act of primary infringement has occurred. In the case of secondary infringement, however, liability is dependent on the defendant knowing or having reason to believe that the activities in question are wrongful.

Isack Kimaro

Editor-in-chief and founder of sherianajamii.com. Holder of Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from Mzumbe University and Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the Law school of Tanzania. Lawyer by profession and blogger by passion.

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