What are some of the laws governing the download of free videos on the Internet?


Quick Answer

According to copyright law, viewers cannot download free videos from the Internet without permission from the owners of the videos, reports the U.S. Copyright Office. Those who illegally download videos are guilty of copyright infringement, and owners can sue them in court and receive statutory damages.

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Full Answer

Copyright law stipulates that any created work such as a video is copyrighted as soon as it is fixed in a tangible form whether or not it has any notice of copyright, explains the U.S. Copyright Office. A viewer violates copyright law by downloading, uploading or reproducing any video unless it is accompanied by a clear notice giving permission. This includes free videos available through peer-to-peer networks. Although the fair use doctrine authorizes the limited use of copyrighted material without the owner's permission, this is restricted to short clips for use in reviews, commentaries and news reports.

Copyright owners whose works are infringed upon have the right to file lawsuits through the court system and receive compensation. The amount of damages that a court may award depends on the motivation of infringement. The owner is entitled to an award for damages that the copyright infringement may have caused as well as profits resulting from the infringement. Courts may award as much as $30,000 in statutory damages for each infringed work, but if the court finds the infringement willful, the award can go up to $150,000 for each infringed work, according to the U.S. Copyright Office.

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