Can you be incarcerated for internet piracy?

“Pirating” has taken a new definition in the past several years that shadows the time of open seas, ships and scurvy. Today, pirating is more akin to downloading a photo off of Google, but a few pictures aren’t going to cause you problems with the law. There are legal consequences if you download music, movies, shows, games, textbooks or software without the permission of the creator. 

You may be wondering why you would be punished for downloading something online – especially if it’s so readily available at any sketchy website. Here’s what you should know:

Artists have a right to protect their art

Every type of art is guarded by copyright protection to deter people from stealing art and claiming it as their own. Copyright protection is granted to artwork at the instance it is created. There are certain types of copyright protection that increase the legal protection of artwork. Some artists prefer to register their artworks under trademarks that consider different types of legalities. 

In short, most copyright and trademark protections allow the original creators to define how their work is copied, distributed, used and sold. Anyone who finds an artist’s work online for free is most likely infringing on their copyright unless otherwise said by the original creator.

What are the punishments for piracy?

Different types of piracy elicit different types of punishments. You could face a hundred-dollar fine for downloading a song illegally or several thousand dollars for downloading a movie. It all depends on who is being stolen from and what type of art they produce. 

In severe cases, people have been known to be put in jail for up to five years. This would likely occur during the redistribution of a pirated product – not because you downloaded the newest pop song for free.

If you are facing fines or jail time for unknowingly (or knowingly) pirating something online then you may need to know your options for a defense.

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