Sarah A. Zawada


One of the key elements that courts use to determine an appropriate statutory damage award in a copyright infringement case is the number of infringements of a copyright. How does a court determine the number of infringements when one infringing article has been printed six times in over one hundred copies of a magazine? Before the Copyright Act of 1976 went into effect, many courts adhered to the "multiplicity doctrine" and would have awarded statutory damages in the above scenarios for each of the six times that the infringing article was printed or the infringing song was played. Post-1976, however, most courts have interpreted the 1976 Act's language as abolishing the practice of awarding statutory damages for each infringing work, instead awarding statutory damages for each infringed work. In 2004, the First Circuit reaffirmed this interpretation in Venegas-Hernandez v. Sonolux Records. Although the law may appear to be well-settled, two questions remain. First, does this interpretation of the 1976 Act actually deter prospective infringers-one of the goals of copyright law? And, second, does this interpretation promote good public policy? Evidence seems to suggest that the answers to both of these questions are in the negative.