What Happens When My Copyright is Infringed?

Copyright infringement exists to protect an author’s interest in his or her work. The United States copyright statutes vest an author with many rights to their work and any one or more of them can be infringed by someone else. If you are the creator of an original work and you believe someone is using your work without your permission there are a few steps you should take to protect your rights in that work.

First of all you should make sure your work is registered with the United States Copyright Office. Copyright registration is not mandatory, but registering the copyright in your work puts other people on official notice that you own it. It also allows you to claim statutory damages if you have to go to court. Register your copyright even if you do not think anyone is currently infringing your copyright; the sooner you put others on notice the better.

Once you become aware that someone is infringing your copyright, document it! Take screenshots, pictures, video, or whatever else is at your disposal. Tangible proof serves as much better evidence at trial if you have to sue someone to protect your copyright. It is also possible some infringers may not be totally aware they are infringing your copyright so providing proof could easily inform infringers of their activity.

Your next step should be to contact an attorney. This does not mean you will have to sue anyone. Sometimes a strongly worded letter from an attorney can cause infringing activity to stop. If you are looking for damages from an infringer you can include a damages request in the letter as well. Some infringers will certainly back down at the threat of litigation. Others may even be willing to properly license their use of your copyright. It is almost always a good idea to contact your infringer before filing a lawsuit.

Unfortunately some infringers will not be fazed by a letter from an attorney. In those cases you can move forward with a lawsuit to receive an injunction to stop the infringing activity, receive monetary damages from the infringer, or both. Most likely you can reach a settlement with the infringer before the trial is concluded. However if your case goes all the way to a jury the trial can take years and cost a significant amount of money. Your attorney will advise you on the best options for your particular situation. If the infringement is criminal, your attorney will direct you to the Federal Bureau of Investigations as well.

Infringement can come in many forms. Only you can reproduce your work, sell it, perform it, or display it publicly. If you need to protect your copyright from infringement you can contact Stone Law at 732-444-6303 or leave us a message on our website.