Monetary damages for copyright infringement generally consist of the following:
- Actual damages
- Lost Profits
- Statutory damages
Compensatory or actual damages consist of the monetary loss which is proven to have been suffered by the copyright owner due to the infringement. This may include lost revenue from sales or licensing and other provable financial loss.
In addition to actual damages, the owner of a copyright that was infringed upon may be entitled to the disgorgement of profits. Profits consist of the money that the infringer received from the illegal use of the copyright.
The federal Copyright Act allows for the recovery of statutory damages and attorneys' fees for holders of a registered copyright prior to the infringement. Where actual damages and profits are minimal, or cannot be proven, the owner of the copyright can elect to receive statutory damages instead, of not less than $750.00 nor more than $30,000, as determined by the Court based on the severity of the infringement. However, the copyright owner cannot receive both actual damages and statutory damages at the same time.
In short, the type of damages available in a particular case, including attorneys' fees, depends on whether the owner of the work held a registered copyright at the time of the infringement. In such case, statutory damages and attorneys fees' may be recovered for the illegal use of the copyrighted work. Otherwise, damages may be limited to actual damages and/or profits.