A criminal charge of piracy can be intimidating. The laws surrounding this category of federal crimes are complicated, and the penalties can be strict. If you’ve been charged with piracy or a similar crime, contact the Ohio criminal defense attorneys with Luftman, Heck & Associates at (614) 500-3836 today.
Piracy, which includes copyright infringement, reproduction of trademarked products, and trafficking of counterfeit goods, involves illegally using, reproducing, or profiting from someone else’s creations. These offenses almost always involve schemes that span across multiple states or even international jurisdictions, so they are typically investigated and prosecuted by the federal government. Additionally, Ohio does have some laws of its own that target intellectual property pirates.
You would be wrong to think that your illegal downloading of music or videos is too small to go unnoticed by investigators. There are countless examples of everyday Americans—young and old—that have been convicted for running piracy networks or for just downloading a few movies. If you get investigated or charged with piracy, it’s essential that you immediately retain the services of an experienced legal professional.
There Are Harsh Penalties for Violating Ohio and U.S. Piracy Laws
There are many types of copyright infringement, and the specific penalties that apply to each violation vary. A copyright automatically applies to any original creation, giving exclusive rights to the person who created it. The creator is able to transfer these rights to others—often a company, such as a record label or publishing house.
To successfully convict you of copyright infringement, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you reproduced, distributed, rented, or transmitted digitally a creation to which you did not own the copyrights.
You may face copyright infringement over any of the following types of media or commercial products:
- Music—Uploading songs to which you do not own rights to a sharing network, or even sharing them with your friends may be grounds for piracy charges.
- Films—Whether you download pirated movies or take a camera into a movie theater, you are exposing yourself to criminal liability.
- Cable television broadcasts—If you have a home cable or satellite television contract, you cannot broadcast movies or sporting events for commercial gain, such as in a bar or restaurant.
- Books and articles—You cannot reproduce contents from a book or article for commercial gain. Likewise, it’s illegal to download pirated e-books.
- Computer programs—You may face criminal penalties for downloading cracked versions of computer games, word processors, or any other licensed software.
- Smartphone apps—People attempting to profit from the sale of illegally obtained smartphone applications have faced aggressive prosecution in recent years.
The specific penalties you will face depend on how you infringe the copyright and the kind of product you are accused of misusing. A conviction may leave you with a felony record, fines that can reach into the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, and possible jail time. In addition, you may face civil liability. This means that the rightful copyright owner can sue you in civil court to recover the unjust profits you made.
Similar but distinct from a copyright is a trademark—such as a brand logo or slogan. If you produce and profit from a product that uses or resembles a registered trademark, you may face both criminal and civil liability. If you make or sell counterfeit retail products protected by trademark law such as watches, T-shirts, or sneakers, you may end up facing harsh penalties under federal law.
How to Defend Against a Piracy Charge
There are several strategies your lawyer can use to defend against a piracy charge, depending on the facts specific to your case. These strategies include:
- Claiming that your use of the protected content was fair—You may use excerpts from books, music, or film for personal, educational, research, or journalistic purposes.
- Claiming that your products are distinguishable—If you’ve been accused of using someone’s trademarked item, the prosecutor must show that your product is indistinguishable from the original, and that the original was in fact registered with the U.S. trademark office
- Challenging the prosecutor’s evidence—In piracy cases, prosecutors often use evidence obtained from a defendant’s computer or phone. However, if they obtained that evidence illegally—through a warrantless search, for example—that evidence may be excluded from the prosecutor’s case.
- Seeking the protection of the statute of limitations—You cannot be charged with piracy if the alleged offense occurred more than 5 years ago.
Call the Ohio Criminal Defense Attorneys at Luftman, Heck & Associates
If you’re being investigated for piracy, you should call an Ohio criminal defense lawyer who can advise you on how to proceed. Your attorney will act as an intermediary between you and the authorities. In general, the sooner your lawyer can begin working on your case, the better your prospects of obtaining a good outcome.
At Luftman, Heck & Associates, we’ve built our reputation on helping our clients fight back against a wide variety of criminal charges. We pride ourselves in listening closely to our clients’ needs and providing them with aggressive defense strategies that get positive results. If you need an Ohio criminal defense attorney to help you with a piracy charge, call us today at (614) 500-3836 for a free and confidential consultation of your case.
Facing federal criminal charges? Contact us.
If you have been charged with a federal crime, you’re probably wondering what your options are. The Ohio federal criminal defense attorneys at Luftman, Heck & Associates have years of experience handling these types of cases and winning optimal outcomes for our clients. Call an Ohio federal crime lawyer today for a free consultation. To contact a criminal defense attorney, call us at (614) 500-3836 or email us via [email protected].