Aspects of Copyright Infringement

Copyright Infringement

Minnesota copyright laws protect a creator from having his or her original creative works copied. Copyrights protect the expression of ideas, not the ideas themselves. Creators would not want to show their creative expressions to others if they could always be stolen and sold under another person’s name for a profit. The advancement of society is encouraged through copyright laws.

Infringement of Registered Copyrights versus Unregistered Copyrights

Copyrights in Minnesota, whether registered or unregistered, grant the same rights to the owner of the copyright. A person does not obtain more rights in a work by registering a copyright. A person infringes on a copyright through the same conduct, whether the copyright is registered or unregistered. A person’s reproduction of a copyrighted work is just as likely to be legal if even if the copyright is unregistered.

Copyright registration doesn’t change the rights of the owner or the methods of infringement. Copyright registration changes the burden of proving a legal position in a lawsuit. The plaintiff of a registered copyright does not have to prove the copyright is legitimate or that the owner is the original creator of an expression of an idea. The defendant has to prove the copyright is not legitimate.

The plaintiff of an unregistered copyright must prove that the plaintiff had a legitimate copyright. The defendant does not have to prove otherwise.

Infringing Conduct

In Minnesota, if you are not the owner of a copyrighted work, you may not reproduce, distribute, perform, or display the copyrighted work, without permission. A person may author a copyrighted work and then transfer title to the work to another person, while retaining a right to royalties based on sales related to the copyrighted work. The author is called a beneficial owner.

Intentional versus Unintentional Infringement

If you infringe on another’s copyright innocently, or unintentionally, you are still liable for copyright infringement in Minnesota. It is irrelevant that you did not intend to infringe.

Contributing to the Infringement of Another Person

A person may also be liable for contributory copyright infringement. To prove a person is liable for contributory copyright infringement, the plaintiff must prove that someone else infringed on the plaintiff’s copyright, that the defendant knew or should have known of the infringement, and that the defendant induced, caused, or contributed to the infringement.

A person could be liable for vicarious copyright infringement. To prove a person is liable for vicarious copyright infringement, the plaintiff must prove that someone else infringed on the plaintiff’s copyright, that the defendant profited from the infringement or had a financial stake in the infringement, and that the defendant had the ability to supervise or control the infringement.