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Statutory Damages

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Definition:

Statutory damages are used in copyright and trademark cases to determine damages due the copyright or trademark holder for infringement. Statutory damages are determined by U.S. Copyright law, because in many intellectual property cases it is difficult to determine the exact amount of the damages.

Statutory damages are determined by U.S. copyright law and can vary from $750 to $150,000 per instance of infringement, depending on what is considered "just," with higher awards for "willful" infringement. Court costs and attorney fees are often considered in awarding statutory damages.

Although statutory damages are not technically related to actual costs, there has been some discussion in the media and some recent court cases (Sony v. Tenenbaum, for example) which argue that the statutory damages should not be so high.

A copyright holder may receive statutory damages if the copyright has been registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. If the copyright is not registered, the copyright holder may only receive compensatory damages for actual damage suffered.

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