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What is Contributory Copyright Infringement?

Dec 3rd, 2016 | By | Category: Copyright Litigation

Copyright Infringement Essentials – Understanding “Contributory Infringement”


This blog discusses what you need to know about a cause of action for “contributory” copyright infringement, which in essence is a type of “aiding and abetting” type of case.

Federal Caselaw

In Online Policy Grp. v. Diebold, Inc., 337 F. Supp. 2d 1195, 1199–200 (N.D. Cal. 2004), the Northern District Court in California discussed this legal concept:

“There is no statutory rule of liability for contributory infringement. However, courts recognize such liability when the defendant “with knowledge of the infringing activity, induces, causes or materially contributes to the infringing conduct of another.Gershwin Pub. Corp. v. Columbia Artists Mgmt., Inc., 443 F.2d 1159, 1162 (2nd Cir.1971). “Such participation must be substantial.Religious Tech. Ctr., 907 F.Supp. at 1361.

The party alleging contributory infringement must show:

(1) direct infringement by a primary infringer

(2) knowledge of the infringement,


(3) material contribution to the infringement.” See Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer Studios, Inc. v. Grokster Ltd., 380 F.3d 1154, 1160 (9th Cir.2004).

A defendant may be liable under a vicarious liability theory if the plaintiff demonstrates:

(1) direct infringement by a primary party,

(2) a direct financial benefit to the defendant, and the right and ability to supervise the infringers.” Id. at 1164.

Contact a Software, IP & Copyright Law Firm

We have substantial experience handling federal copyright law matters dealing with infringed software, movies, and photos.  Contact us to discuss your case with a IP attorney.  We can be reached at (877) 276-5084.  We offer flat rate legal fees for most non-litigation cases.

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We are a business and civil litigation firm with a focus on copyright infringement cases involving illegal movie downloads (torrent cases such as London Has Fallen, ME2 Productions and Malibu Media defense), software audits (ex. Microsoft audits, SPLA, Autodesk audit notification letter, Siemens PLM defense, SIIA, Adobe and Business Software Alliance defense) and other software vendors threatening piracy and infringement. We also handle cases involving internet law, anti-SLAPP, media law, right of publicity, trademarks & domain name infringement, and we have a niche practice area handling California BRE licensing disputes, accusations, subpoena response, statement of issues and investigations. We have offices in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Newport Beach, San Diego & Phoenix, Arizona and accept federal copyright and trademark cases nationwide. All content on our website is general legal information only and not a substitute for legal advice, and should not be relied upon. Decisions to hire counsel should not be based on advertising alone. Blogs, videos and podcasts are authored by Steve Vondran, Esq. unless otherwise noted. We can be reached at (877) 276-5084.

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