Protecting Your Company from Copyright Infringement on the Internet

traverselegal - June 25, 2012 - Copyright Infringement on the Internet, Copyright Law

What is a copyright? Well, a copyright is any original work of authorship that is unique enough that you can actually have rights in. So, obviously, if you developed a website and generated a lot of content for that website, you have copyright protection in that website. If you designed a logo or a design for your website, you could have copyright protection in that design for your website.

Welcome to Copyright Law Radio. We bring you the best in copyright news, legal advice and information.  From copyright infringement claims and defenses to threat letter issues, DMCA takedown notice letters, copyright licensing, and legal analysis of the latest copyright law cases, we have a copyright attorney who can answer your copyright questions.

What is a copyright? Well, a copyright is any original work of authorship that is unique enough that you can actually have rights in. So, obviously, if you developed a website and generated a lot of content for that website, you have copyright protection in that website. If you designed a logo or a design for your website, you could have copyright protection in that design for your website.

If you upload photos or videos to your website where you or your employee are the authors of that content, then you have copyright protection in that content. Obviously people who write books, and photographers and artists, they all have copyright. The question becomes how to protect you and your company from copyright infringement in the Wild West that is the internet.

My name is Enrico Schaefer. I’m a Copyright Law Attorney with the Law Firm of Traverse Legal. Traverse Legal is an internet and cyber law firm. We specialize in internet law, cyber law and the backend technology which drives applications and web. We specialize not only in copyright law, but in internet. We understand how the internet works, the specialized laws that apply when copyright protected materials are published online.

So the first thing that you need to know about protecting your copyright for your company or business on the internet is that you need to know when someone is infringing your copyright. That means you have to monitor the internet in order to be able to see when someone is trying to steal your copyright-protected work. That is very important.

A lot of clients who find their way to our copyright law firm, they do so because someone sends them an email saying, “Hey, I saw this on or I saw this being sold on eBay or I saw this website that looked just like yours and I wanted you to know about it.” All too often, copyright owners actually find copyright infringement by accident. You need to be much more proactive about your copyright infringement protection process.

There are lots of monitoring tools that lawyers use in order to be able to identify potential copyright problems on the internet. One of the most important things for you to do is to monitor website and your web pages for infringement because those are instances where someone else is trying to mimic and pretend that they are you in order to divert, deceive and defraud your customers. Potentially get personal information from your customers. Potentially get credit card information from your customers and make it look like those customers are providing the information to you.

So, there are two big problems there. One is you might end up getting a threat letter from someone who believes that you had some part in a fraudulent internet scheme. Two is your customers are being diverted away from you, and if they’re being diverted away from your company and your business, then chances are you’ve lost business and revenue.

The first thing you need to do is monitor. A good copyright law attorney who specializes in internet law will be able to help you design a copyright monitoring scheme that protects your copyright-protected materials. Once you get a monitoring system in place, you need to cull through all of the returns that might come back in order to see which ones are potentially problematic. A good copyright-protection software package and good lawyers have those available and they know how to use them. They will be able to tell you when there is a problem with one of the things that comes back in the system.

Once you find that there is a copyright infringement problem on the internet then there are a variety of different tactics that you’re going to use in order to deal with that problem. The first thing is you need to determine whether or not the website where the infringing copyright material is posted was posted by the website owner or operator or whether or not it’s user-generated content. User-generated content is content that a third person uploads into someone else’s website.

If it is user-generated content, the website owner is going to escape liability as long as they have a Digital Millennium Copyright Take-Down policy, where you as the copyright owner, can give notice to the website that your copyright is being infringed on their website and then they have an obligation to provide notice and take down that copyright-protected material.

They might also provide you information which would allow you to identify the person who uploaded the copyright-infringing material in the first instance. If in fact the person who posted it is also the person who’s running the website, then you’ve got to figure out if you can identify who the website owner is. That might require you to do DNS research on the domain name, servers that are being used for the website, and domain registrant information to determine who the owner of the domain name that operates the website. These types of things will help you identify who you’re going after.

The person who is engaged in direct infringement of your copyright is potentially liable. Now, one thing you need to understand is that if you don’t get your copyright registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, you can’t bring a federal lawsuit claiming copyright infringement.

So, you need to work with a copyright attorney in order to make sure you are registering copyrights for your most important copyright-protected materials. But you don’t need to register in order to have common law rights. It just makes it very difficult to do anything about it beyond a Digital Millennium Copyright Take-Down Notice if you don’t have it registered.

Once you determine who you’re going after, you want to make sure that the problem isn’t going to get bigger. If the person is using your copyright and posting it in lots of different places, you obviously want that to stop. So, you’re going to send a copyright infringement cease-and-desist letter, which is going to have a number of demands including that they no longer engage in copyright infringement.

Obviously, you always have the option if you’re a registered copyright owner to be able to file a lawsuit against the infringing party under the copyright act. That can potentially get you up to $150,000 in statutory penalty damages if someone is willfully infringing your copyright. A lot of times what you’re really doing is you’re trying to cease the behavior and perhaps get a licensing or royalty fee for the prior use.

So, let’s say that copyright infringing material was up there for a year. Then a good copyright law attorney will be able to come up with a formula to calculate what the license would have been for that copyright, your copyright, on that website, and potentially get compensated for that. The Copyright Act does allow, in certain exceptional circumstances, for attorney’s fees to be awarded, so you could always ask for your attorney’s fees to be paid as part of your copyright infringement threat letter process.

My name is Copyright Law Attorney, Enrico Schaefer. I specialize in internet law and cyber law. I’m here to help. Feel free to give me a call any time if you have any copyright law questions or are looking to proactively protect your copyright-protected material, whether it’s your website, your videos, your written content, your photographs, your art work. Whatever other work is an original work of authorship by you or through someone who you have rights through. We’ll see you next time.

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by attorney Enrico Schaefer, who has more than 20 years of legal experience as a practicing Business, IP, and Technology Law litigation attorney.