Sadly, we hear many stories of copyright infringement from creators. It’s frustrating! You pour your blood, sweat and tears into your work. Whether for a lack of understanding or a lack of care people continue to steal the intellectual property of others. In today’s digital age, it can be too easy take someone else’s photograph or illegally download a song or movie. On the flip side, it can also be a daunting task for a creator to monitor for infringement on the vastness of the internet. So, what do you do if you discover an infringement? Here are a few options you can consider:
Contact the infringer: The easiest first step after discovering an infringement is to contact the infringer if you can find their contact information or social media handles. There are times that people don’t realize what they have done is infringement. And, often times, the creator and infringer can come to an agreement on whether the content gets removed or if compensation is owed.
Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA): The DMCA notice and takedown process is a tool for copyright holders to get user-uploaded material that infringes their copyrights removed from websites and other internet sites. The process entails the copyright owner (or the owner’s agent) sending a takedown notice to a service provider, requesting the provider remove material that is infringing their copyright(s). After a takedown notice is sent to a service provider, the provider usually notifies the user, subscriber or other person who is responsible for engaging in the infringing activity. If that person – the alleged infringer – in good faith does not think the activity is infringing, he or she can send a counter notice to the service provider explaining why they disagree with the copyright owner. We have more information on the DMCA here and a video series here.
Copyright Attorney: Another option to consider is seeking legal advice from a copyright attorney. If you need help in finding an attorney, the Copyright Alliance provides a list of copyright attorneys here. In addition, there are many Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts groups across the country that may be able to assist you with legal services for little to no cost. You can find more information on them here.
One thing to note is, this blog assumes you have in fact been infringed. Before reaching that conclusion there are various things that should be considered, including the possibility that the work is being used under the fair use exception or other exception in the Copyright Act. To learn more about what infringement is, you can visit our site here.
Something you may not know is that, according to the U.S. Copyright Office, “Serving primarily as an office of record, the Copyright Office is not charged with enforcing the law it administers. Copyright infringement is generally a civil matter, which the copyright owner must pursue in federal court.”
At this time, federal courts have jurisdiction over copyright, and federal litigation is expensive. Many professional creators and small businesses cannot afford to defend their rights when someone infringes their copyrighted works. As a result, these infringements regularly go unchallenged, leading many creators to feel disenfranchised by the copyright system. As a result, many creators have rights but no remedies.
However, you may have heard about the “Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019” (the CASE Act). The Case Act is a bill that would create a “small claims court” within the U.S. Copyright Office to handle copyright infringement claims from individual creators and small businesses that cannot afford to defend themselves in federal court. To learn more about the CASE Act, read some of our blogs here. You can also contact your Senators to support the CASE Act here.
The information provided by the Copyright Alliance in this message is intended to educate you about copyright law and policy. The Copyright Alliance is not a law firm. We do not provide legal advice and this message does not create or constitute an attorney-client relationship. Please see more here.