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What are the laws on downloading copyrighted movies for free?

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Those who download copyrighted material such as movies without permission of the owners are guilty of copyright infringement and liable for damages under copyright law, reports the U.S. Copyright Office. Even if a film doesn't carry a copyright notice, it is protected by copyright as soon as it is created.

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The owner of a copyright has exclusive rights to reproduction and distribution of copyrighted material unless he has specifically assigned the rights to someone else, according to the U.S. Copyright Office. Those found guilty of copyright infringement, which includes downloading movies from peer-to-peer networks or other unauthorized sources on the Internet, face fines of up to $30,000 for each work infringed or downloaded movie, as of 2015. If the copyright owner proves that the infringement is willful, the fine increases up to $150,000 per illegal download. The court may also direct the infringer to pay the attorney's fees of the copyright owner.

Copyright law considers an intellectual property such as a movie copyrighted as soon as it is created, whether or not the owner registers it, states the U.S. Copyright Office. However, proof of copyright registration is important as evidence in a court of law, enabling copyright owners to more compensation following successful litigation. Due to reciprocal agreements, most countries throughout the world honor U.S. copyrights.

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