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What Constitutes Copyright Infringement?

Sometimes the most valuable assets a California business owns are not the physical buildings which house the employees or the land upon which such building sits, but the ideas, creations, and inventions that the company’s employees develop. Having any one of these creations stolen, pirated, or reproduced can rob the creating company of not only the idea or creation itself but also the time and resources that went into developing the creation and bringing its existence about.

When the intellectual property of one company is unlawfully used or distributed by another company or individual, the creating company may choose to file a copyright infringement lawsuit. Copyright infringement lawsuits are not the only type of infringement suit available, and are not as straightforward as one might be led to believe.

For a Copyright Infringement Case You Need a Copyright

Before you can file a copyright infringement case, you must first obtain a copyright. Not all “creations” are capable of being protected with a copyright. In particular, a copyright is available for literary works, graphical or sculptural works, musical compositions, dramatic or choreographed pieces, sound recordings, pictures, and computer programs that are original and fixed in some physical medium. A copyright gives the holder the following rights:

  • The right to reproduce copies of the protected work;
  • The right to create additional work based on the original work;
  • The right to distribute copies to the public; and
  • The right to display and perform the work in public.

What is – and What is Not – Copyright Infringement 

When a person who is not the copyright holder does any act which is only permitted to be done by the copyright holder, an infringement of the holder’s copyright may have occurred. For example, if your company creates a unique ringtone and obtains a copyright, a person who obtains your smartphone ringtone and then proceeds to reproduce it and sell it for less may have infringed on your copyright.

However, a copyright does not offer you or your company any protection against an individual or company who independently researches and comes up with a creation similar to your own. So, for example, if a company in New York employs a musician who is unfamiliar with your ringtone but who, through the course of his or her work, develops a ringtone that is similar to yours, this company may be able to distribute its ringtone despite the fact that it sounds similar to your own. A copyright does not prevent others from doing their own work – it only prevents others from deliberately copying your work.

When to Call Your California Copyright Infringement Law Firm 

Whether you need to obtain copyright protection for a new work or creation or believe another entity or individual is distributing or unlawfully using your creation without your permission, you should consult with the intellectual property attorneys at JGPC Law. Our team of experienced advocates is familiar with federal intellectual property laws and can help you take decisive legal action to protect your valuable ideas and creations. Contact our law office at (925) 463-9600 or through our website for prompt and professional legal counsel today.


The content presented in this article is for general informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. It does not constitute the formation of an attorney-client relationship. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

copyright infringement

JGPC Business Law is a business law firm providing cost-effective, quality legal services to privately held businesses, corporations, limited liability companies (LLCs), general partnerships, joint ventures, limited liability partnerships (LLPs), limited partnerships (LP), trusts, business start ups, entrepreneurs, business owners, managers, executives, investors, buyers & sellers throughout the Tri-Valley and the East Bay Area, including Pleasanton, Dublin, Livermore, San Ramon, Danville, Walnut Creek, Castro Valley, Fremont, Tracy, Modesto, Manteca, Stockton and all of Alameda County and Contra Costa County. We are here to serve all of your business and corporate law needs.