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Profit from sales of unlicensed copyrighted images, can this be proved and recouped somehow for the victim?

Los Angeles, CA |

If a company is caught selling merchandise that is using unlicensed logos and thereby breaking copyright (yes these are images registered with the US Copyright office) and they are taken to court, for infringement will they be forced somehow to divulge any monies they made from selling said merchandise also? If so, how is it discovered how much they may have made from the illegal sales? Is it court ordered they show their books or something?

Attorney Answers 3


Yes. It is called discovery. The plaintiff will serve discovery requests (interrogatories, requests for production, etc.) seeking financial data regarding the allegedly infringing sales. You could seek a protective order to maintain the confidentiality of such information, but the plaintiff is entitled to discovery relevant to its claim. See Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. You would be better off retaining an attorney to discuss these matters in confidence, rather than make potentially damaging admissions on a public forum that can be used against you.

This answer is for informational purposes only. It is not intended as specific legal advice regarding your question. The answer could be different if all of the facts were known. This answer does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

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Philip Leon Marcus

Philip Leon Marcus


You would be FAR better off hiring an attorney, and either James or Pamela are very knowledgeable choices, but there are several other LA copr. lawyers on AVVO as well.



I'm justasking. I know a company doing this to artists and amgoing toexpose them. Otherwise I'm not involved in the case. Just wonder how much trouble they will be in (schadenfreude). Good answer nonetheless, thanks!


Yes, it's typical in infringement cases for the plaintiff to ask the defendant to produce documents and answer questions regarding their infringing conduct (their sources, uses, etc.) and their profits and costs.

If the plaintiff is entitled to _statutory_ damages, then the plaintiff's burden of proof is easier and the only need to establish the fact of the infringement and the number of works infringed.

If the copyrights had not been registered, then the plaintiff would only be entitled to _actual_ damages plus defendant's profits, and there'd be a lot more discovery about the defendants' sales and revenue, and the defendant would need to prove their deductible costs.

If the plaintiff is also seeking an injunction from further acts of infringement, they also ask about the defendant's sources of the infringing works so they can also sue them.

If you're a plaintiff or defendant, hire a lawyer. Copyright infringement is literally a federal case and is definitely not a DIY job.

Avvo doesn't pay us for these responses, and I'm not your lawyer just because I answer this question or respond to any follow-up comments. If you want to hire me, please contact me. Otherwise, please don't expect a further response. We need an actual written agreement to form an attorney-client relationship. I'm only licensed in CA and you shouldn't rely on this answer, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it's impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue.

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The copyright owner would be seeking so-called indirect profits for the infringement. That means that even if you did not profit from selling the copyrighted images directly, any profit you made on products you did sell that could be tied to the infringing images would be recoverable.
You should definitely seek counsel quickly if you are in this position.

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