The copyright holder is typically the work's creator, or a publisher or other business to whom copyright has been assigned. In relation to computer software, the Business Software Alliance (BSA) claimed in its 2011 piracy study: "Public opinion continues to support intellectual property (IP) rights: Seven PC users in 10 support paying innovators to promote more technological advances.
Following consultation with experts on copyright infringement, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) clarified in 2010 that "estimating the economic impact of IP [intellectual property] infringements is extremely difficult, and assumptions must be used due to the absence of data," while "it is difficult, if not impossible, to quantify the net effect of counterfeiting and piracy on the economy as a whole.
Copyright holders frequently refer to copyright infringement as theft. In copyright law, infringement does not refer to theft of physical objects that take away the owner's possession, but an instance where a person exercises one of the exclusive rights of the copyright holder without authorization.
Courts have distinguished between copyright infringement and theft. For instance, the United States Supreme Court held in Dowling v. United States (1985) that bootleg phonorecords did not constitute stolen property. Instead, "interference with copyright does not easily equate with theft, conversion, or fraud.
The Copyright Act even employs a separate term of art to define one who misappropriates a copyright: '[...] an infringer of the copyright.'"
The court said that in the case of copyright infringement, the province guaranteed to the copyright holder by copyright law—certain exclusive rights—is invaded, but no control, physical or otherwise, is taken over the copyright, nor is the copyright holder wholly deprived of using the copyrighted work or exercising the exclusive rights held.
The personal copying exemption in the copyright law of EU member states stems from the EU Copyright Directive of 2001, which is generally devised to allow EU members to enact laws sanctioning making copies without authorization, as long as they are for personal, noncommerical use.
The idea itself is not protected. That is, a copy of someone else's original idea is not infringing unless it copies that person's unique, tangible expression of the idea. Some of these limitations, especially regarding what qualifies as original, are embodied only in case law (judicial precedent), rather than in statutes."