Criminal Copyright Infringement Does Not Equal Strict Liability

This case highlights one of the differences between civil liability and criminal liability in copyright infringement cases.  Julius Liu owned Super DVD, a company that commercially replicated CDs and DVDs for customers.  Replication is a different copying process than making a copy by burning.  Replication involves using a master copy to stamp content onto CDs and DVDs with a molding machine.  Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents obtained a warrant and searched the Super DVD warehouse in July 2003.  Lui was convicted of three counts of criminal copyright infringement and one count of trafficking in counterfeit labels after the grand jury returned the second superseding indictment in February 2010.

Liu appealed his convictions to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The Ninth Circuit ordered dismissal of Liu’s conviction on the second count of criminal copyright infringement, ruling that Liu’s counsel was ineffective for failing to raise a statute of limitations defense to that count.  The Ninth Circuit vacated and remanded Liu’s convictions on the other counts, ruling that the district court improperly instructed the jury on the meaning of the words “willfully” and “knowingly” in the context of a criminal case.

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