Copyright ActThe origin of U.S. copyright law is found in the United States Constitution. Article One, Section 8, clause 8, which delegates to Congress the power to “promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” Congress has passed and amended a number of copyright laws effectuating this Constitutional mandate, with the modern iteration being embodied primarily in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. §101 et seq., and its subsequent amendments.

Section 504 of the Copyright Act, entitled “Damages and Profits,” is applicable in cases involving both statutory and actual damages. Subsection (a) states, in pertinent part, that an infringer of copyright may be liable for either: 1) the copyright owner’s actual damages and any additional profits of the infringer; or 2) statutory damages. Under subsection (b), the statute further explains that the copyright owner is entitled to recover actual damages that arose as a result of the infringement, as well as any profits of the infringer not accounted for in calculating the actual damages. Alternatively, subsection (c) allows the copyright owner to elect, “at any time before final judgment is rendered, to recover, instead of actual damages and profits,” an award of statutory damages for all infringements “for which any one infringer is liable individually, or for which any two or more infringers are liable jointly and severally” in an amount up to $30,000. Further, if a court finds that infringement was committed willfully, it may increase the statutory award, in its sole discretion, to any amount less than or equal to $150,000.

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