Stop Thief! What to Do If Someone Steals Your Copyright
The downside of the internet is that copyright theft has never been so easy. Your designs, photos, writing, etc. are all at risk of being ripped off. So what can you do to stop this?
Monitor the Situation
Set aside some time to search for your work; you can use photo search engines, keyword tags (and Google alerts to automate this), etc. You can’t defend against a copyright breach unless you know that it has occurred.
Read the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)
You also need to know your rights. This paper is not the most exciting thing you will read this week but without it – you won’t know how to demonstrate effectively that you hold the copyright to your creations.
You are not legally required to register copyright (though it is always a good idea to assert copyright on your work – whether you register it or not). However, being able to prove that you are the creator of the work is going to make it much easier to defend against infringement.
The person infringing your copyright may have no idea that they’re infringing your copyright. There are ton of folks out there stealing and then reselling other people’s material. The best way to begin defending your copyright is to make contact either by phone or e-mail and raise the concern. You may also want to have a specific remedy in mind before making contact. E.g. what do you want them to do? Take the work down? Pay a license fee?
File a DMCA Take Down Request
Google is a great place to do this with. It’s free. It’s easy. It ensures that if the person using your material isn’t going to take down the material or pay for it – can’t use it. In fact, you will damage their SEO to some extent because Google will block the content from their search.
Then take the specifics from the DMCA take down request and put them into an e-mail and send them to the infringer. Make it clear that you know your rights and they may just pay up.
Take Legal Advice
If this still doesn’t address the problem then it’s time to talk to a lawyer. They will be able to advise you of appropriate causes of action and the costs involved and what you’re likely to win. Sadly, it’s not, in most cases, worth spending $1,000 to win a $50 commission check.
Before you take legal action get a realistic assessment of your chances of winning too. If there’s only a 50% chance of winning and you’re spending $500 to win back $1,000 – you may want to let it go rather than throw good money after bad.
Your lawyer should also be able to help you draft your demands to the infringer and see if they are willing to settle before they reach a courtroom.