The owner of a registered copyright can enforce his rights by bringing a civil lawsuit in Federal District Court. In addition, the Federal government itself can act. Criminal actions can be brought by the U.S. Attorney; and Customs and Postal officials may seize and impound infringing articles that are being imported. Recovery of attorneys' fees is possible if the suit is successful. The penalties for infringement can be substantial. In civil actions brought by the copyright owner, the court may order forfeiture and/or destruction not only of all infringing articles, but also of any implements used to manufacture the infringing articles. The court may even order seizure and impoundment of such articles prior to trial, and in some cases, without prior notice to the alleged infringer. In addition to obtaining an order stopping the infringement and ordering destruction of infringing articles, the court can order payment of any provable damages, including lost profits. The copyright owner can elect to receive "statutory damages". The minimum amount of statutory damages that can be awarded for copyright infringement is $500; and the maximum is $20,000. If the infringement was willful, the potential statutory damage award is increased to $100,000 for each act of infringement. In addition, attorneys' fees may be awarded. In addition to civil penalties, copyright infringers can be prosecuted under the federal criminal laws. All willful copyright infringement is a criminal offense. The lowest penalty is conviction of a federal misdemeanor, with a prison sentence of up to one year and a fine of up to $5000.
More serious penalties are levied against infringers who make multiple copies of a work, or who copy expensive works. It is a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 to willfully infringe copyrights of others by making, during a 180-day period, ten or more copies of a work which have a cumulative value of $2500 or more. Second and subsequent offenses carry a prison term of up to ten years in addition to the fine. Companies which willfully infringe can be assessed up to $500,000 in fines.