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Could copyright infringement land you in jail?

In the past ten years, the number of people who have been given convictions after being accused of intellectual property violations has jumped dramatically, going up by around 61 percent. This change, along with all of the warnings now put on movies and other types of media, have made people really think about copyright infringement issues under the umbrella of criminal law. So, if you're convicted, can you actually end up behind bars in Pennsylvania?

The answer is a bit tricky. Technically, yes, you could go to jail for something like this. In reality, though, the odds of that happening are incredibly small. You're far more likely to be sued, which could lead to a ruling that you must pay fines, retribution for lost gains, or other types of fees.

For example, take a look at 2007. In that year, there were only 224 total criminal convictions for these issues, all across the United States. Since then, though things are still far higher than they were in 2001, the numbers have tapered off. In 2010, there were just 196 such convictions.

The numbers for civil lawsuits have followed a similar trend, though the stats are a bit larger. They hit their highest point in 2006, when they got to 5,488 cases in the U.S. This underscores both how small the total numbers are and how much more likely a civil suit is than a criminal case, no matter what those warning labels say.

That said, these stats also show that criminal cases and jail time are possible, so those who have been accused must know their legal rights.

Source: The Media Institute, "Will You Go to Jail for Copyright Infringement?," James Gibson, accessed Sep. 22, 2015

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