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How Do I Enforce My Copyright?

You have discovered someone is infringing your copyright, now what?

A cease and desist letter is a good first step in copyright enforcement. You should draft a letter to the alleged thief that states that you own a copyright, describes your work and the infringing work, and requests they stop the infringing activity (whether it be posting your writing or video on their website, sharing your image without your permission, selling something you’ve created, etc.)

If you believe your work is being posted on a website without your permission, you have an additional tool to enforce your rights: the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The DMCA allows copyright holders to send “takedown” notices. This is a notice to the host (like YouTube, or Flickr) that the content their user has submitted is actually yours. See this page for more information on filing a DMCA takedown notice.

If all else fails you can bring an action for copyright infringement in federal court. Before doing so, you should seek the advice of an attorney. You must register the work before you can bring suit.

via wblj on Flickr

When suing for copyright infringement, you must establish that you are the owner of the work, and that your work was, in fact, copied.

To establish that you are the owner, you need only show that you created the work and that the work is copyrightable. A valid copyright registration is prima facie evidence of copyrightability and ownership.

Copying can be proved either by direct evidence or indirect evidence. Direct evidence is proof that the infringer physically or digitally stole it from you. Indirect evidence is proof that the works are strikingly similar and the infringer had access to your work. Such access can be shown by wide public distribution of the original.

If you are successful in filing suit, you may be able to obtain an injunction to prevent further infringement. You can recover actual damages and any additional profits obtained by the defendant through infringement. If your work was timely registered, you may also be able to recover statutory damages. Statutory damages can range from $750 to $30,000, or up to $150,000 if the act of infringement was done willfully. Note that this is per infringement, so if someone willfully takes 10 photos of yours, they could be liable for up to $1.5 million in damages.

Such high stakes litigation, again, should not be undertaken without an attorney.

Back to the #Copyright overview.

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