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17.4 Copyright Infringement—Elements—Ownership and Copying (17 U.S.C. § 501(a)-(b))

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This chapter is being reviewed in light of comments solicited by the Committee from the public.


Anyone who copies original elements of a copyrighted work during the term of the copyright without the owner’s permission infringes the copyright.

On the plaintiff’s copyright infringement claim, the plaintiff has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that:

1. the plaintiff is the owner of a valid copyright; and

2. the defendant copied original elements from the copyrighted work.

If you find that the plaintiff has proved both of these elements, your verdict should be for the plaintiff. If, on the other hand, you find that the plaintiff has failed to prove either of these elements, your verdict should be for the defendant.


The elements in this instruction are explained in Instructions 17.5 (Copyright InfringementOwnership of Valid CopyrightDefinition), 17.13 (Copyright InfringementOriginality), and 17.16 (CopyingAccess and Substantial Similarity). Copying and improper appropriation are issues of fact for the jury. See Three Boys Music Corp v. Bolton, 212 F.3d 477, 481-82 (9th Cir.2000).

The elements of copyright infringement cited in this instruction were stated in Feist Publications v. Rural Telephone Service Co., 499 U.S. 340 (1991). See id. at 361 ("To establish infringement, two elements must be proven: (1) ownership of a valid copyright, and (2) copying of constituent elements of the work that are original."); see also Seven Arts Filmed Entm’t Ltd. v. Content Media Corp., 733 F.3d 1251, 1254 (9th Cir.2013).

The Ninth Circuit considers the word "copying" as "shorthand" for the various activities that may infringe a copyright owner’s six exclusive rights described at 17 U.S.C. § 106. Range Rd. Music, Inc. v. E. Coast Foods, Inc., 668 F.3d 1148, 1153 (9th Cir.2012)