Copyright is one form of intellectual property protection. When you suspect your copyright has been violated, you may be understandably upset. It is important, however, to remain calm as you evaluate your options. Far too many copyright disputes are unnecessarily escalated when they could have been amicably and simply resolved. Avoid things like contacting the party you think is violating your copyright while you are angry. Also, be sure that you first verify that you are, in fact, the owner of the copyright. You want to be sure of this basic fact before you pursue any type of redress against someone else. Lastly, be sure to keep records of anything related to the copyright dispute. Evidence can all too easily disappear in these types of cases.
Ways to Enforce Your Copyright
While a copyright owner has the right to file a lawsuit in federal court when someone violates the rights of the copyright owner, it may not be required. While litigation can be an effective means of enforcing your rights as a copyright owner, it can also be expensive and time-consuming. You may want to try other means of enforcing your copyright first. To demonstrate how you may be able to do this, we will take an example of someone taking your online content to use on their own website.
First, you can contact the person infringing on your copyright. This alone may solve the problem. If not, you can send a Digital Millennium Copyright Act Safe Harbor (DMCA) take-down notice to the Online Service Provider (OSP). This is the company hosting the website and the notice will request that they disable to site violating your copyright. If this does not work, you can proceed with sending a takedown notice to the company that registers the website URL. It is not uncommon for these registrars to disable domains found in violation of a copyright.
Should the other take-down notices prove ineffective, you can also send take-down notices to search engines. This will notify the search engines to scrub the offending website out of search results. Check the details for each search engine. All of them have policies on where you should direct copyright infringement notices as well as what the notices should include.
When all else fails, you can still bring your lawsuit in federal court. In the lawsuit, you can request that the court do things like issue an injunction to prevent further violation of the copyright. You can also request an award for monetary damages if you sustained losses as a result of the infringement. You may also be able to seek attorney fees under certain circumstances.
Generally speaking, the success of the lawsuit will turn on whether the alleged copyright violator can assert a substantiated and valid legal defense to the charge. For instance, the violation may actually have been permitted pursuant to the fair use doctrine. In the alternative, the owner of the copyright owner may have actually authorized the use in a license. Should a violator actually have had good reason to think the use was fair, he or she is likely to be only seen as an innocent infringer. Innocent infringers typically are not held responsible for paying damages but will be ordered to cease the violation of the copyright and maybe pay the owner for the use of the copyrighted material at reasonable commercial value of the use.
Do you need help enforcing your rights as a copyright holder? Thomas M. Lancia PLLC is here for you. Contact us today.