Video Piracy, Illegal Downloads, Infringement in the Internet Age

Many describe the internet era as the wild west (when it comes to intellectual property). With P2P and sharing software making it very easy to share files online, illegal behavior on the Internet is common. Today, there are new state and federal laws that are cracking down harshly on such illegal behavior. Copyright laws have gotten more severe since the 2001 Napster case, so anyone engaging in this illegal activity should take note.

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Digital Piracy Laws

Digital piracy laws provide most of the protections today for creative content owners. If you are uncertain if what you are doing constitutes the proper use of someone else’s creative content, it is recommended to talk to an attorney experienced in this area of the law.

One of the most well-known laws in this area is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. This federal law makes it illegal to evade copyright protections. This includes even if the copy of the creative content is strictly for personal use. However, preserving work that is currently owned by just changing the property format may be okay. For example, making a DVD of a VHS copy of a movie may be legal. However, hacking a video game for offline use to avoid confirmation of ownership is certainly illegal.

Other critical aspects of the DCMA are as follows:

  • Illegal activities include the cracking of copyright protections; circumvention of encryptions; breaking into product code that is protected; security systems stress testing.
  • Distributing or manufacturing software for code cracking
  • In Texas, some state archives, education groups and nonprofit organizations have certain exemptions, but selling content commercially is illegal.
  • Manufacturing copies of software, information and product updates is against state and federal law.


Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement

This is an international treaty between the US and several other nations, including Japan and the UK. The purpose of this law is to deal with digital piracy when creative content crosses international borders. This treaty does not just deal with digital content; other products that are protected are currency, pharmaceuticals and other trade goods.

No Electronic Theft Law

This is a federal law that makes all civil copyright violations a federal crime. So, making that copy of a CD or DVD for a friend can net you a fine of up to $250,000.

Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act

Passed in 2008, this law enforces stricter penalties for copyright infringement. This law provides law enforcement with the right to seize your personal property if they suspect you are infringing copyright. Seized property may not be given back after a search. So, if you have a high number of personal and work files on your electronic devices, be careful.

See Also…

Search and seizure laws do protect Americans in many ways, but there are risks if you are carrying copies of copyrighted material at country borders. For example, electronic devices and laptops may be searched by border officials if they have a reasonable suspicion that you are carrying protected content. They do not need probable cause to conduct a search, either.

(281) 853-8537 | Criminal Attorney

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