What is a Copyright Lawsuit?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
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A copyright lawsuit is a type of legal action, usually a civil suit, which involves a charge by one person toward another of copyright infringement. In this type of suit, the plaintiff is typically a person who owns a particular copyright and is bringing action against a defendant for infringement of that copyright. It is also possible that a lawsuit of this kind might be brought by someone who does not have a recognized ownership over a copyright, but who is trying to establish his or her copyright ownership. A copyright lawsuit is not always necessary in cases of infringement, and other means are often used to try to end infringement.

Copyright ownership is typically one of the primary factors in a copyright lawsuit. Ownership of a copyright, which is a form of intellectual property that covers works of art or creative expression, is granted to the creator of a work at the moment in which it is made. This can lead to some potential issues, however, when there is dispute as to who may have first created a particular work of art.


A copyright lawsuit typically involves a claim of infringement on a copyright. This can stem from someone using an item covered by a copyright without permission from the owner of that copyright. Someone who creates a work that is very similar to the creation of someone else can also be subject to a copyright lawsuit. Such a copyright lawsuit often requires a great deal of effort to establish if a work is coincidentally similar, derivative, or created as a parody of the original work.

Works that are similar by coincidence may not always be grounds for a copyright lawsuit. The validity of such a suit often depends on whether evidence can indicate that the second creation is too similar to the first. A derivative work can be grounds for a lawsuit, unless the creator of the secondary work has received permission to use the original work. Works of parody do not usually infringe upon a copyright, though it must be demonstrated that a work exists as a true parody and not merely a derivation.

While a copyright lawsuit can settle a claim of copyright infringement, this is not always required in all cases. Many times a copyright may have been infringed upon unknowingly or without financial gain. Some copyright owners may allow a copyright to be used, without actual permission or consequence, when the user is not profiting from it. A “cease and desist” order is often sent prior to a lawsuit, which instructs the person infringing upon a copyright to stop doing so and immediately remove any publicly displayed materials that infringe upon the copyright.



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