Say I download a copyright-protected album, and, without licence, make it available for download on a peer to peer network, distributing it to 10,000 of my closest friends.

Then I get a letter from a lawyer representing the label owning the copyright to the album, reminding me that I don't currently have a license to distribute the album. They say that they will sue me for this, but offer me the opportunity to settle for a one-time special deal of $1,000 and stopping immediately.

Say I take the deal.

Since I and the copyright holder have no further quarrel over my reproduction of the 10,000 copies of the album, and assuming the settlement does not specifically address the issue, are those 10,000 copies now legal, duly licensed copies? Can their owners play them on their iPods, format-shift them into MP5 when MP3 goes out of use, and make the legally allowed number of backup copies? Or would all those activities be no more legal than they were before the copyright holder settled with me?

1 Answer 1


No, they are not duly licensed copies

Each of those people infringed the owner’s copyright when they downloaded the work (they made an unauthorised copy). It’s not your problem, but it’s still theirs should the copyright owner wish to pursue them.

They can still use them privately - possessing and using an infringing copy is not copyright infringement (see Watching bootleg DVDs). Their infringement happened when they made the copy.

  • "possessing and using an infringing copy is not copyright infringement": is this true in all jurisdictions? I suspect it isn't.
    – phoog
    Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 5:45

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