What arguments may be advanced to defend a claim of copyright infringement?

UPDATED: Jul 17, 2023Fact Checked

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Jeffrey Johnson

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UPDATED: Jul 17, 2023

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UPDATED: Jul 17, 2023Fact Checked

Arguments, or defenses in copyright claims cases, are used by the party in a case being sued to either reduce or eliminate the suing party’s case. In copyright law there is a specifically set forth list of acceptable defenses.

Independent Creation in Copyright Lawsuits

The first argument that can be used against a copyright lawsuit is that the work was independently created by you. This argument would be as follows: “I did not copy your work, but independently created it.” This argument places the requirement for proof onto the defendant to show that their work was independently created of the other person’s work. The best evidence that can be brought for proving this argument is an older copyright mark or an older copyright registration. Should you have either of these, the requirement of proof then shifts to the suing party to prove that their copyright is the accurate one.

Fair Use and Public Domain in Copyright Lawsuits

The second argument commonly brought in a copyright lawsuit by the defendant is that the work in question fell under either public domain or fair use. Fair use is a list of exceptions under copyright law that permit non-profit and non-copying uses of other people’s work. The fair use list includes:

  • Criticism
  • Comment
  • News Reporting
  • Teaching
  • Scholarship
  • Research

If your use falls into any of these categories, you would have a valid fair use argument. Public domain is when the work’s copyright has expired or the work was created by the government, and, therefore, not copyrightable.

Statute of Limitations in Copyright Lawsuits

As with any other civil action, a lawsuit for copyright infringement can only be brought within three years of the infringement or thee years of the infringement being discovered (in some cases). So, if an author discovers your infringement and sends you a letter of warning, they cannot wait and sue you four years later because the statute of limitations would have already run. If you ever do receive warning letters from authors, always keep them on file to ensure the statute of limitations has not already run out.

Authorized Use in Copyright Lawsuits

Copying someone’s work with their permission is not copyright infringement. So, if you are planning on using someone’s work, always send them a letter and notify them of the use. Many times, the author is delighted to hear of how their work will be reused and will grant written permission. Once the written permission has been given, you are free to use their work for the specified purpose without fear of a lawsuit.

Innocent Infringer in Copyright Lawsuits

Copyright law is one of the few areas of legislation where ignorance can be used as a defense. While this defense will not dismiss the copyright lawsuit, it will drastically reduce the amount of damages and prevent any criminal charges from being brought.

Case Studies: Defending Copyright Infringement Claims and Utilizing Insurance Coverage

Case Study 1: Independent Creation Defense

TechSolutions Inc., a software development company, is sued by DigitalSoft for copyright infringement. DigitalSoft claims that TechSolutions copied their software code without permission. TechSolutions argues that their software code was independently created and not copied from DigitalSoft’s code. They provide evidence of an older copyright registration for their code to support their claim.

TechSolutions’ legal team contacts their intellectual property insurance provider, SecureGuard Insurance, to ensure coverage for the legal expenses involved in defending against the copyright infringement claim. The insurance coverage allows TechSolutions to hire experienced attorneys who specialize in copyright law, strengthening their defense and increasing their chances of successfully countering the claim.

Case Study 2: Fair Use Defense

In another case, an individual artist named Sarah receives a cease and desist letter from a photographer, claiming that she has used their copyrighted photographs in her artwork without permission. Sarah argues that her use of the photographs falls under fair use as she has transformed the original images into new and creative artworks for non-commercial purposes.

To support her defense, Sarah contacts her liability insurance provider, ArtGuard Insurance, which offers coverage for copyright infringement claims. With the insurance coverage, Sarah is able to hire a knowledgeable attorney who specializes in fair use cases. The attorney helps build a strong defense, emphasizing the transformative nature of Sarah’s artwork and arguing that it does not harm the market value of the original photographs.

Case Study 3: Statute of Limitations Defense

A music producer named Mark is sued by a songwriter who claims that Mark used a copyrighted melody in one of his songs without permission. Mark argues that the lawsuit should be dismissed because the alleged infringement occurred more than three years ago, exceeding the statute of limitations for copyright infringement claims.

Mark’s attorney contacts his entertainment industry insurance provider, MusicPro Insurance, to ensure coverage for the legal costs associated with defending against the claim. With the insurance coverage, Mark’s attorney files a motion to dismiss the lawsuit based on the statute of limitations defense. The insurance coverage allows Mark to protect his rights and assets without incurring significant financial burden.

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Jeffrey Johnson

Insurance Lawyer

Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Insurance Lawyer

Mary Martin

Published Legal Expert

Mary Martin has been a legal writer and editor for over 20 years, responsible for ensuring that content is straightforward, correct, and helpful for the consumer. In addition, she worked on writing monthly newsletter columns for media, lawyers, and consumers. Ms. Martin also has experience with internal staff and HR operations. Mary was employed for almost 30 years by the nationwide legal publi...

Published Legal Expert

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

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