Corporate Shield From Individual Liability, Maybe Not.
Many individuals incorporate their businesses in order to protect themselves from personal liability arising from conduct that occurs within the scope of the company’s operations. An individual, however, could still be personally liable for the company’s copyright infringement if the individual has the right and ability to supervise the infringing conduct, and has a direct financial interest in such activity. A copyrighted work is not limited to the protection of a written document, but can also include a variety of works ranging from photographs and digital images to software, sound recordings and architectural plans.
The exposure to personal liability is significant and could result in exposure to the copyright owner’s actual damages, statutory damages up to $30,000 for each infringement of a copyrighted work, or up to $150,000 for willful infringement. As a result, it is wise to inquire as to whether or not the company’s insurance policy provides coverage for copyright infringement, including coverage for the potential personal liability of its officers. Excess or “umbrella” protection for the individual officers of the company may also afford an additional level of protection. If there is any concern about potential copyright infringement issues, you should consult a qualified attorney with intellectual property experience.
Zachary D. Messa is a Florida Bar Certified Intellectual Property Attorney