You commit an offence if you infringe the copyright of another person or business for a commercial purpose or if you create an article designed for making copies of a particular copyrighted work or if you have such an article in your possession. You will also commit an offence if you infringe the copyright in a work by communicating it to the public.

Possessing Fake Goods

You will commit an offence if you make for sale or hire, import or possess, sell, hire, distribute or exhibit in public and in the course of business an article that infringes copyright without licence from the owner.

A typical example would be a market trader selling fake designer watches or bags. Increasingly such trade is moving online where websites selling fake designer goods will be guilty of offences, which is why companies like Amazon and eBay move quickly to try and remove fake items from their sites. It should be noted that sellers offering fake good for sale on sites such as Amazon Marketplace or eBay will be guilty of offences and cannot argue that it was the website selling the products rather than themselves.


You will have a defence to importing a fake product if you can show that you were importing it for your personal and domestic use.

You will also have a defence where you can show that you had no reason to believe that the product infringed the copy of a copyright work, i.e. that you believed the product to be genuine and are a victim yourself.


The maximum sentence is imprisonment for ten-years or an unlimited fine or both.

Possessing An Article To Make Copies

You will commit an offence if you make or possess an article designed or adapted for making copies of a particular copyright work. For example, a stamp that embosses the logo of a brand on a bag.

If you possess or make the article but do not have reason to believe it will be used to make infringing copies for sale, hire or use in the course of business then you will have a defence.


The maximum sentence for the offences above is imprisonment for ten-years or a fine or both.

Communicating A Copyrighted Work

An offence is committed if you communicate a copyrighted work to the public knowing or believing that you are infringing the copyright and intending either to make a gain for yourself or cause a loss to the copyright holder.

The first thing that might come to mind with this is an employee who steals a secret design from his employer and publishes it for all the world to see. A more common scenario might be the person who broadcasts a pay-per-view sporting event on the internet for those who have not paid to watch – this is why such events often have a number in the corner as it allows the copyright owner to identify who is streaming their events. You will be committing an offence even if you do not charge people to watch your stream because you will be causing a loss to the copyright holder by removing the income they would have earned form people paying to watch, i.e. causing them a loss. There is no requirement for the prosecution to calculate the loss.

Conviction for this offence carries a maximum sentence of ten years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

Unlicensed Performances

The final way intellectual property rights can be infringed, in the criminal law at least, is by the performance of a copyrighted work. For example, a theatre company puts on a play that is protected by copyright without seeking the permission of the owner. This doesn’t just include plays, it could include unauthorised musical performances and the showing of copyrighted films without permission.

Upon conviction, you would be liable for a sentence of three months imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

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