Issues with copyright infringement: common challenges and examples

Copyright as a legal concept is an easy and straightforward way to protect your work. It seems clear-cut: if you don’t have a written permission from the artist, don’t use the asset. Simple. No room for copyright infringement.

In real life though, copyright infringement is real and happens every day in staggering numbers. Legislation isn’t always capable of keeping up with the advancement of society and the mediums through which the artwork is shared. So, in this post, we have decided to cover the most common challenges that the copyright faces and how has the legislation dealt or attempted to deal with them.


Modern technology

With raping technology development and innovation, it became laughably easy to copy artistic work. And in turn, it has become increasingly hard to protect that work from being stolen. In some cases, creations that have been copied or outright stolen by competitors, have resulted in huge earning that original creators saw none of. In light of this, countries like the USA have launched the Copyright Modernization Act all the way back in 2018. It aimed to catch up with the technological development and give legislators the tools and knowledge to recognize a copy.

Some countries also have small claims procedures for copyright infringement that allows artists to protect themselves against IP thefts with monetary gain. As opposed to expensive court cases, this gives more agency to small artist in the legal process.

Visual Assets

It’s not just photographers that suffer from theft on social media. Graphics designers, technical and artistic illustrators – every type of visual artist have or will have at least one of their works stolen at some point in their career. With modern technology mentioned above, these artists are especially susceptible to theft and hence need more protection.

International cases

Copyright infringement on an international scale often is a difficult challenge for companies trying to protect their work. A domestic court may find it impossible to enforce copyright laws on another country’s legal subjects. While it’s possible to go after international copyright infringement, it’s also downright impossible to prove that anything was stolen. This is solved a little easier with global social media platforms that have their own mechanisms for reporting copyright infringement. They give more agency to small creators and even companies and brands to fight the legalities on those platforms. But when it comes to open market, it’s a completely different story.

It’s notable that international organizations, like the European Union, are striving to keep international regulations harmonized among its member states. This gives companies and artists more possibilities to claim their copyrights irrespective of their borders. Yet, the process can still be long and grueling.

Non-monetary gains

It’s not always possible to measure monetary gain from stolen work. This is where moral rights of the author over their own work come in. They can be enforced through right of attribution – which exactly gives the author moral right over their creations. There’s also the right of integrity – a way for the author to fight various distortions, remixes and other changes of their work. For example, a photographer can claim right of integrity over a picture that had a filter applied to it.

The Internet as a whole

One of the ways modern technology has advanced is the scale of the Internet. Over 2.6 billion copyright infringements are observed each year worldwide. The numbers are enormous and it’s becoming increasingly hard for both the artist and legislation to police these instances. Tools like Copyseeker can surely help with tracking stolen work, but it only works for images. Songs, blogs, videos – every medium faces the copyright infringement and the Internet sometimes is just too vast to keep track of everything.

Real-life examples

Every artist or company working in creative industry will be able to tell you at least one story of stolen artwork. It happens to artists of all sizes, big and small.

A famous case of Napster and their use of Internet access has washed over the music industry. Napster was a website where users could share music files peer-to-peer for free. A number of record companies sued Napster, citing copyright infringement en masse. They won their case and since then, they set a legal precedent to stop platform from sharing music online without paying.

Smaller artists face same issues as well. A YouTuber and travel photographer Brendan van Son often faces copyright infringement. With over 115,000 followers on Instagram, he has built a reputation for gorgeous imagery of nature and travel spots. Because of that, he has become a target of various sharing accounts on Instagram that take his imagery for their own promotion. While he is able to use the platform’s report function as soon as he finds stolen artwork, he himself admits that the procedure is still complicated and takes time.

With further advancements in technology and the share amounts of artwork being created, it’s fair to assume that the issues of copyright infringement will become even bigger. We encourage all artists to know their rights and always be on the lookout for others profiting off their work. We also encourage users to find ways of using imagery and other artwork under free license, or pay the appropriate amount and credit the artist as is due. It takes all sides to make copyright infringement a lesser issue and Copyseeker hopes to be a tool to that end.

Frequently asked question

1. What exactly is copyright infringement?

Copyright infringement occurs when someone else uses, copies or distributes someone's original work without first obtaining permission from the copyright holder.

2. What types of work are protected by copyright?

Creative works that can be protected by copyright include music, books, photographs, artwork, software and many more.

3. What is fair use?

Fair use is a provision in the law that might allow for the inclusion of some copyrighted work, without permission or payment, for certain limited purposes.

4. What are the consequences of copyright infringement?

The consequences can include statutory damages, payment of legal fees, and potential loss of profits. Additionally, the infringer may need to destroy the infringing product and cease sharing it in any way.

5. What is plagiarism and how does it relate to copyright infringement?

Plagiarism is when someone copies someone else's work and passes it off as their own. This can overlap with copyright infringement when the plagiarized work is protected by copyright.

6. What is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)?

The DMCA is a U.S. law that provides legal protection for online service providers who remove or disable access to infringing content that has been posted by third parties.

7. What are some famous copyright infringement cases?

There have been several high-profile cases of copyright infringement, including the Napster lawsuit


by Judith Walker

I hope you find this useful.

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