The exact moment when you are in violation of copyright
If you're puzzled as to when you are in violation of someone's copyright, it's the moment when you copy it. That is, the moment you push the button on the scanner, or the copier. Or the moment you do a drawing of Mickey Mouse.
Now waitaminute, I'm not saying that the Disney police are gonna come busting into your house the minute you finish that drawing of Mickey Mouse. They don't know anything about it, until you expose it. And when you expose it, you can get caught. And they have the option to make you cease and desist (which just means stop and don't do it anymore), or not. But, make no mistake, you are in violation of their right to copy.
The right to copy something protects people who create stuff. And it's protected by law because as a society we want to encourage people to create stuff, like artwork, or songs, or movies. And the strongest incentive people have to create stuff is the hope that they will be able to make money with it. So, as a society, it's in our best interest to encourage this, and protect it. If you disagree with copyright law, I ask you to talk to an artist, or a songwriter, whose living depends on that protection.
From a legal standpoint, there has to be the exact moment of violation. If there's no violation, there's no crime. And if the law were to depend on a series of complex factors, such as the number of minutes allowed before it was considered a violation, that the law would get muddled up in protests of minutes, seconds, and nano-seconds.
The good news about all of this, if you're worried, is a thing called "Cease and Desist". If you've violated someone's copyright, maybe by printing up your own Mickey Mouse T-Shirts to sell at the Fair, you can expect a letter telling you to stop. The copyright holder may or may not ask you to destroy your inventory, but they certainly want you to stop. So stop.
I hope this helps.
By the way, I hold the copyright on the cartoon at the top of this post, but if you would like to use it, please do so. I do custom cartoons, but I don't resell them, so seeing them anywhere (with my signature intact) is just good advertising for me. Thank you!
Posted by Brad Hall