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If a company introduces you to a company to sell your products and that company commits copyright infringement, is the referring company liable?

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Attorney answers 5

Best Answer

Probably not. The referring company could be vicariously liable for indirect infringement (e.g., inducement of infringement) for promoting the copyright infringement by a third party if the referring company has taken affirmative steps taken to foster infringement. See MGM v. Grokster, 545 U.S. 913 (2005). A mere referral to the third party would not be sufficient by itself. Additional facts may affect the legal analysis. This is not legal advice but a discussion of general legal principles.

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.


No, only the party violating statute is liable for the consequences of their action.

The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advice" but analysis, and different lawyers may analyse this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I am only licensed in California. See also terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.


Probably not. Your only arguments would be contributory copyright infringement or induced copyright infringement, and both of those have significant intent elements that are probably not met.

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So your scenario is A introduces B (you) to C to sell B's products and C commits copyright infringement of D (or did C infringe B). B want to hold A liable. Not likely unless A knew or had reason to know that C was a copyright infringer or had plans to infringe copyrights. If A did, not only would it seem to be inducement to infringe or contributory infringement (which would depend on the facts), it would likely be fraudulent as well, as with such intent it would seem that A duped B, probably illegally. If you are B see a Fraud attorney or an IP attorney or both or a firm with both.

I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Free advice here is without recourse and any reliance thereupon is at your sole risk. This is done without compensation as a free public service. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and I am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is strictly general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.


Before answering this question, an attorney would need much more information. It is possible that the referring company engaged in inducement of copyright infringement, but inducement claims are difficult to prove and would require proof both of direct infringement by the company that sells your products (or some other company) and an intent by the referring company that such direct infringement occur. Inducement claims are fact intensive and they are often disfavored by courts. Therefore, if you want to pursue this, you need to retain and work with intellectual property litigation counsel.