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What are the Consequences of Music Copyright Infringement?

By Tara Barnett
Updated May 16, 2024
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The consequences of music copyright infringement are usually directly related to the worth of the music distributed or illegally obtained. Actual damages must be demonstrated in order for monetary consequences to apply, but a person can be ordered to stop distributing music that violates copyright simply by demonstrating that infringement exists. Most people are concerned with actual damages when they think of music copyright infringement because this is the only way any money can be recouped. It is usually left up to a court how much money is due to the owner of the copyright. In some areas, infringement is rampant because there are no consequences of copyright infringement or they are not enforced.

In order for there to be any consequences of music copyright infringement, there must first be someone who can be blamed for infringement. It is not necessary to show that the person willfully or even knowingly infringed the copyright, only that he or she acted in such a way that the copyright was infringed. Significant amounts of minor copyright infringement go on every day, even in areas with copyright laws, simply because it is very difficult to catch infringers. As such, there are effectively no consequences of copyright infringement for a large number of people.

If a case is brought against an infringer, the first consequence will usually be an injunction against continued distribution of the music in question. When infringement is not direct piracy but rather concerns a version of a song or some other issue like sampling, this can mean significant losses for the artist whose work is being challenged. While an injunction does not give the person whose copyright was infringed any money back, it does seriously diminish the other person's ability to continue to distribute the work.

Actual damages are the area most people are concerned about when looking into music copyright infringement. A person can be ordered to pay the entirety of the profits made from a song or may even be ordered to pay an amount of money that the person holding the copyright could have theoretically made with the song. In some cases, distribution of a single song for free online can result in fines upward of 150,000 times the purchase price of the original song. The actual amount of the fine often depends not on the value or availability of the song, but on the lawyers trying the case. Given how severe the consequences for copyright infringement can be when they do happen, it is a good idea to be very careful with copyrights.

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Discussion Comments

By Vincenzo — On Apr 16, 2014

@Logicfest -- few of them get caught because snagging music, movies and just about anything else online is incredibly easy. In fact, it's not just easy -- it is convenient and so common that the old "everybody else is doing" it argument comes into play more often than you might think.

But that leads to a troubling argument from those that is used by some who advocate file sharing. Back when file sharing became a problem, people used to justify it by claiming it was more convenient to "shop" for music and movies online than it was to go to a store. We also heard that, as far as music was concerned, it was a rip-off to charge someone for a full album when that person only wanted a song or two off of it. There was also a lot of complaining about how much movie and music cost.

The industry responded by making it possible for people to pay cash to download individual songs and made it very convenient for people to get their media that way. The same is true of movies -- there are services that stream movies and others that sell legitimate, digital copies of movies for very little money. Also, you'll notice that the prices of compact discs and DVDs has dropped considerably over the years -- those items simply don't fetch premium prices anymore.

In other words, the entertainment addressed concerns such as price and convenience, yet people are still file sharing like crazy. Perhaps convenience and price weren't the primary reasons people started downloading movies and music in the first place.

By Markerrag — On Apr 15, 2014

@Logicfest -- true and one of the main problems with file sharing is that courts, corporations and lawmakers are constantly looking at ways to monitor users so as to prevent the practice. How many people are comfortable with being monitored even if they are doing nothing wrong?

There is an old adage that suggests that you shouldn't worry about being watched if you aren't breaking the law. Some people expect to have a certain degree of privacy while online, however, and don't like it infringed.

By Logicfest — On Apr 14, 2014

Here's the major problem with enforcing copyright law against file sharers -- very few of them get caught. That fact simply encourages more file sharing which results in more copyright infringement.

However, the notion that "I won't get caught" sounds ridiculous when you are one of the ones who is caught sharing files and violating copyrights. The penalties can be severe and the entertainment industry is always looking for new ways to step up monitoring and having a look into what individuals are actually doing online.

Copyright infringement, then, is nothing to mess with if you want to avoid even the possibility of getting into trouble for it.

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