Fewer Copyright Infringement Lawsuits Filed

Table 1. Federal Copyright Suits Filed
FY to date 3,183
Projected FY 2017 3,472
Number FY 2016 3,956
Number FY 2015 5,042
Percent Change from 2016 -12.2%
Percent Change from 2015 -31.1%

The latest available data from the federal courts show that fewer copyright infringement suits are being filed. During August 2017 the government reported 261 new lawsuits over alleged violations of copyright statutes. According to the case-by-case court records analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, 3,183 such suits were filed during the first eleven months of FY 2017. See Table 1 and Figure 1.

Copyright infringement litigation typically allege violations under Title 17 Sections 101 and 501, or violations of provisions in Title 28 Section 1338 of the United States Code.

If a similar pace of filings continues through the end of FY 2017, civil copyright filings will reach an estimated 3,472 this year. The pace of filings this year is down 12.2 percent from last year, and off nearly a third from the number of suits filed in FY 2015. That year a record number of 5,042 copyright infringement matters were filed. See Table 1 and Figure 1.

Figure 1. Copyright Infringement Suits Filed in Federal District Court

Where Suits Were Filed

Thus far this year the largest number of copyright infringement cases have been filed in the Central District of California (Los Angeles) where a total of 674 suits have already been initiated. This single district accounts for over one out of every five cases (21.1%) filed in federal courts across the entire United States.

Table 2. Top Ten Districts With Most Copyright Lawsuits Filed During FY 2017*
District Number Rate**
Cal, C 674 34.7
N. Y., S 570 108.6
Ill, N 154 16.5
Cal, N 134 16.1
N. Y., E 122 14.7
Texas, S 94 9.9
N. J. 84 9.4
Wash, W 78 13.9
Colorado 74 13.6
Fla, S 71 9.8
* First eleven months.
**Rate is per million population.

The Southern District of New York (Manhattan) had the second highest number of filings with 570 so far this year. Together, these two districts accounted for 39.1 percent of all cases. Three other districts each have had more than a hundred new filings of copyright matters this year. These districts were: the Northern District of Illinois (Chicago) with 154, the Northern District of California (San Francisco) with 134, and the Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn) with 122. Together with Los Angeles and Manhattan, these top five districts accounted for over half (52.0%) of all copyright infringements suits filed.

Relative to the population within each district, on a per capita basis the Southern District of New York (Manhattan) had the highest rate at over ten times the national average.

Filings along with per capita rates for each of the top ten districts are shown in Table 2.

Each month, TRAC offers a free report focused on one area of civil litigation in the U.S. district courts. In addition, subscribers to the TRACFed data service can generate custom reports by district, office, nature of suit or federal jurisdiction via the TRAC Data Interpreter.