What are the damages for removal of copyright management information under the DMCA?

gavel2CC0In addition to damages for the infringement itself, a copyright infringer may be liable for further damages, if they removed copyright management information from photographs. This may include a full copyright notice or simply the name of the photographer, when it is embedded in the photo metadata, placed in a watermark, or otherwise associated with the photograph. Unlike statutory damages for infringement and attorney’s fees, these damages do not require the copyright owner to have registered the copyright before the infringement happened.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) states that no one may “intentionally remove or alter any copyright management information” or distribute works with such information removed, in order to conceal copyright infringement. The law defines “copyright management information” as information “conveyed in connection with” copies of a work, such as the title, author and copyright owner. [1] Some courts have taken a narrow view of what can be defined as copyright management information, but many have taken a broad view that would include metadata and watermarks.

Civil remedies for violation of these provisions may include statutory damages for each violation “in the sum of not less than $2,500 or more than $25,000,” with the exact amount being determined by the court. [2]

These damages can be an important remedy for photographers who have had their copyrights infringed, especially if they have not registered their copyright. However, they are only available if the photographer included copyright management information such as metadata or a watermark in their photos, and the infringer removed it.

  1. 17 U.S.C. § 1202(b).
  2. 17 U.S.C. § 1203(c).

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