E-Bay Seller Sentenced to Federal Prison for Copyright Infringement (Title 17, U.S. Code 501)

Last Modified: October 13, 2020
June 15, 2015 | Rabin Nabizadeh | Federal Crime

You may remember the FBI warning that appears before every DVD or Blu-Ray that you happen to watch.  Most people, however, do not think about what the actual consequences would be if they violated federal copyright law.  One man certainly did not take the warning seriously.  Through the use of e-Bay, a 43-year-old man from the Bay area managed to infringe on federal copyright laws by selling illegally copied DVDs.  He was charged with having accepted 20,000 counterfeit DVDs from Asia and selling them through the popular online auction site.  Although several different members of law enforcement tried to warn the man that he was violating federal law before they finally made his arrest, he continued to sell the illegal items to customers across the nation.

Title 17 of the U.S. Code 501 addresses federal copyright infringement, while U.S. Code 106 of the Copyright Act (Title 17, U.S.C. 106) covers copyright law in general.  This particular issue has been a particular problem for federal agents as the ease of gaining access to and selling illegal copies of movies on DVD and Blu-Ray has increased.  The only person or persons who has the right to sell copyrighted material is the person or persons who own the actual copyright.

506 of Title 17 also states that anyone who purposefully infringes upon a copyright could be brought to federal court on criminal charges, especially if the copyright infringement was for the express purpose of financial gain. Generally, violators are asked to pay restitution in the amount of up to $150,000 per infringed work.  When considered criminal, the penalties may include up to 5 years in a federal institution and a $250,000 fine.  In the case above, the gentleman was sentenced to 15 years in a federal facility.

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