Copyright infringement? No, a phishing scam that installs ransomware

Copyright infringement? No, a phishing scam that installs ransomware

Copyright infringement? No

The infamous LockBit ransomware is making a comeback due to an ingenious gimmick by its operators to carry out new attacks. This time, cybercriminals are exploiting an email phishing campaign to infect victims' systems by tricking them into downloading and opening a password-protected zipped file that contains a PDF-camouflaged NSIS installer.

In the e-mail, the victim is instructed to immediately remedy a copyright infringement, in this case the use of a multimedia content not authorized by its author, indicated in a vague way in the content of the e-mail message, in which we invite you to download the file to better understand the object of the violation.

LockBit is a notorious ransomware, even in Linux environment
It is not the first time that a malware campaign has used the lever of copyright infringement to trick victims into opening malicious files, in fact, in the recent past, there have been attacks with BazarLoader and Bumblebee with quite similar modes.

Reports of copyright infringement should not be taken lightly, especially if you are a content creator, as you could risk various consequences, not least the possible demonetization or removal of your video, for example on YouTube. However, if you receive an email complaint that is overly vague and requires you to open an attachment, in these cases, the only thing to do is to trash the email and make sure your security systems are up to date. and correctly running.

What Is Copyright Infringement? Everything You Need To Know

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Copyright infringement can involve much more than illegally downloading music. Copyright law applies to many types of materials in business, science, education, the arts and more. Protecting original work from copy or misuse by others and understanding what constitutes copyright infringement can be just as important to the creator of a work as it is to those seeking access.

Read ahead to learn the ins and outs of copyright infringement and how copyright laws apply to you and the content you might own or want to use.

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Copyright BasicsIntellectual Property Rights

Intellectual property, or “IP,” is a concept at the root of copyright protection. As defined in the United States, intellectual property refers to “creations of the mind” used as assets to commerce—even if they’re not tangible. Intellectual property rights protect trade secrets, inventions, brands, creative works and other applicable media from being improperly used by others. They can be particularly important to businesses both in marketing and in safeguarding proprietary elements of the business.

What Is Copyright?

Copyright is one category of intellectual property applied specifically to “works of authorship.” U.S. copyright law applies to any work as soon as it’s created and fixed in a tangible form, whether registered or not. It grants a set of exclusive rights to a work’s owner and protects the owner and work regarding issues of reproduction, distribution and adaptation. For actual protection of these rights in court, the creator must register work with the U.S. Copyright Office, which requires forms specific to the type of material being copyrighted and can incur certain fees.

Copyrights are different from trademarks, which largely concern branding, and also from patents, which protect inventions. A work doesn’t need to be published or publicly available to be subject to copyright, but it must be expressed in a discrete, tangible form and must be original. Though there are exceptions, copyright protection usually lasts for 70 years past the death of the work’s creator, after which the copyright is either renewed by the work’s successive or purchasing owner or the work enters the public domain.

Examples of Copyright

The U.S. copyright office provides six categories for types of work that can be registered for copyright:

  • Literary works
  • Performing arts
  • Visual arts
  • Motion pictures
  • Photographs
  • “Other digital content,” such as computer programs, apps and databases
  • Examples from these categories include familiar types of creative works such as books, songs and paintings, though copyright can also extend to less obvious subjects such as architecture, clothing and websites. More detailed information on what material qualifies for copyright can be found in this chapter on copyrightable authorship from the U.S. Copyright Office’s compendium of practices.

    Copyright Infringement Explained

    Copyright infringement occurs when the violating party exercises any of the creator’s exclusive rights to the work without permission. This includes all manners of distribution (selling, broadcasting, performing, etc.), adaptation or other copying of the work. Infringement can occur whether or not the violating party seeks monetary gain through the use of the material in question, though any argument against copyright infringement is usually considered stronger without a profit motive.

    Examples of Copyright Infringement
  • Illegally downloading music files
  • Uploading someone else’s copyrighted material to an accessible web page
  • Downloading licensed software from an unauthorized site
  • Modifying and reproducing someone else’s creative work without making significant changes
  • Recording a movie in a theater
  • Distributing a recording of a TV show or radio broadcast
  • Including someone else’s photographs on a website without permission
  • Publishing or posting a video with a copyrighted song to a company website
  • Selling merchandise that includes copyrighted images, text or logos
  • Permitted Use of Copyrighted Material

    Copyrighted or once-copyrighted material may sometimes be used without infringement in certain situations—at least to an extent. These uses tend to fall into one or more categories:

    Direct Licensing

    This is the most surefire way to use copyrighted material without infringement. A prospective user may find existing general licensing terms to follow or alternatively can contact the copyright owner with a request for permission. The copyright owner maintains copyright no matter what licenses he or she grants (generally or otherwise) and can base permission on certain conditions, including payment.

    Fair Use

    This legal doctrine permits the use of copyrighted material under certain conditions, depending on both the nature of the original work and the nature of the secondary use. As with other aspects of copyright law, its exact scope is defined largely by judicial precedent. Unlicensed use of copyrighted material can be considered fair use if:

  • it’s done for nonprofit, educational purposes
  • it transforms the original work enough to change its purpose and character
  • it uses only a limited portion of the original work
  • it does not harm the copyright’s value
  • Fair use often includes instances where copyrighted material is referenced, quoted or sampled within a larger work for the purpose of reporting, parodying or providing criticism or commentary. These are not hard and fast rules but rather established guidelines that courts will use to evaluate individual claims.

    Creative Commons

    A Creative Commons license is granted by a copyright owner to permit public use of a copyrighted work under specific conditions. Terms specific to the license stipulate how the material can be fairly used and for what purposes.

    Public Domain

    Works in the “public domain” either failed to meet the requirements for protection under IP laws such as copyright, have outlived the duration of a copyright or were deliberately placed in the public domain by a work’s owner or creator. These works are considered to be publicly owned and fair game for use without restriction. The catch is that collections of public domain material such as a literary compilation or photo journal may themselves be subject to copyright.

    How Does Copyright Infringement Work?

    In order to bring a claim of copyright violation to court, a plaintiff must first have proof that they are the rightful owner of the material in question—which is usually supplied by their work’s copyright registration. They must then provide proof of actions that infringed upon rights unique to them as the copyright holder. Finally, there must also be proof the defendant’s actions exceed standards of fair use. A valid claim does not require proof that the plaintiff suffered monetary harm as a result of these actions.

    Copyright Enforcement

    U.S. copyright law is based heavily on judicial precedent and case law. Enforcement is typically handled through claims brought to civil court. While states may have their own laws governing copyright, these are generally overshadowed by federal law.

    Copyright enforcement is easier when the plaintiff has registered the copyright shortly after its creation and when clear documentation of all other relevant information (i.e., a licensing agreement) exists. Willful infringement or an established profit motive can certainly damage a defendant in court, but neither must be proved to enforce a copyright. Creators may seek to enforce “moral rights” through copyright law such as the “right of attribution” or the “right of integrity,” which encompass the rights to claim authorship and prevent distortions of a work.

    A copyright is harder to enforce when the work in question has little to no creative or expressive element, when its secondary use is limited to a small portion of the original work or when similarities between the plaintiff and defendant’s works appear coincidental. Defendants in a copyright case often argue the nature of their use follows fair use standards. Otherwise, the defendant assumes the burden of proof for arguing against the copyright’s validity.

    There are certain times when copyright issues aren’t addressed through a traditional federal court process. As described in the section below, online copyrighted material is routinely protected from dissemination without any litigation at all by internet service providers. For cases of infringement involving less than $30,000, the U.S. Copyright Office is developing a small claims process under the direction of Congress on the premise that the cost of defending a copyright in federal court can be prohibitively expensive for individuals and small businesses. This Copyright Claims Board was scheduled to begin hearing claims by the spring of 2022 but as of publication has yet to open.

    Penalties for Copyright Infringement

    Courts intervene in copyright cases in several ways. One common goal of copyright litigation is an injunction preventing any further violation of a copyright by the defendant. A court can even order the seizure of infringing materials to prevent further proliferation.

    Plaintiffs also typically seek monetary compensation. If successful, they stand to recover for damages such as lost profits and for statutory damages of up to $30,000 if certain conditions are met. They can also be entitled to compensation for legal fees, and stand to receive significantly increased compensation if they can prove infringement was committed willfully. It’s possible for certain willful infringement to even lead to criminal penalties, including up to five years of prison.

    Copyright Infringement and Digital Media

    The rise of the internet in recent decades has created growing challenges for the protection of intellectual property. Online content alleged to be in violation of a copyright is addressed in the U.S. by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA). The bill brings the United States into agreement with international copyright treaties concerning rights to digital media and other online assets.

    The DMCA lays out a procedure for removing online material found to be in violation of a copyright without going to court. This starts by sending a notice to the violator’s internet service provider (ISP) or business that hosts web pages online such as Comcast, Google, WordPress, etc. Many ISPs have their own forms for submitting a takedown request over copyright infringement, but if they don’t, offers information on what a notice must contain.

    If it’s not clear which an offending website’s ISP is, a “WHOIS search” on lookup tools such as or can help. Creators can also report violations to Google to combat copyrighted material’s presence in search results.

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    Bottom Line

    In line with other intellectual property laws, copyright law aims to balance the personal interests of creators with the public’s broader interest in freedom and access. This doesn’t always mean copyright disputes get resolved in ways that seem fair. There are strong arguments that policies such as the DMCA’s online takedown procedures over-privilege the claimant and are vulnerable to abuse.

    Some level of protection for intellectual property, however, is essential to fostering innovation in business, research, the arts and more because of the incentives (financial or otherwise) it preserves for creators. Ultimately, copyright protection is important for small-scale creators and big businesses alike and understanding how infringement works is essential to interacting with copyrighted material at any level.

    Frequently Asked QuestionsWhat’s the point of registering a copyright?

    Even though one’s work is technically protected by copyright automatically from the moment it’s created, registration serves as proof and is what actually enables the copyright’s enforcement in federal court. Registering a copyright before any legal action occurs, ideally within a few months of the work’s creation, helps its effectiveness. Putting a copyright on the public record also serves to inform other parties of one’s claim, potentially dissuading them from infringement or encouraging them to seek licensing.

    Does my copyright apply in other countries?

    This depends on the laws of the country in which protection is being sought. It usually comes down to the country’s level of participation in international copyright treaties or agreements, of which there are many. Most other countries also have a copyright system with automatic protection and voluntary registration. This international copyright relations resource from the U.S. Copyright Office offers a listing of countries’ relations with the United States.

    What’s the difference between copyright and intellectual property?

    “Intellectual property” is an umbrella term referring to all “creations of the mind” that can be owned and protected, while copyright is one category of IP alongside trademarks, trade secrets and patents. Copyright applies to original works of authorship and protects tangible, discrete forms of expression such as a specific book or film while intellectual property more broadly includes intangible assets.

    How is a trademark different from copyright?

    A trademark is another form of intellectual property applied to the representation of a brand, rather than to an individual work. Specifically, trademarks cover words and designs differentiating a brand’s product or service from others of its kind, such as a product name, a logo or a company slogan.

    Similar to copyright, trademarks don’t need to be federally registered but stand to benefit from it in the event of litigation. Trademarks must be registered by a separate process with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

    Learn more in our guide covering the differences between trademarks, copyrights and patents.

    What’s the difference between copyright infringement and plagiarism?

    Plagiarism is simply the use of another’s words or ideas without proper attribution. Except in certain instances of research, plagiarism doesn’t usually carry legal consequences and is not necessarily directly in the purview of any government agency or legislation.

    While there can certainly be overlap between the two, copyright infringement is based on concepts of property and ownership, while plagiarism describes presenting someone else’s work as one’s own. Properly crediting a creator usually reconciles issues of plagiarism, but attribution is not a credible defense against copyright infringement claims.