Saturday, December 8, 2007

How to Take a Copyright Thief to Court

If all else fails, you can file a copyright infringement lawsuit. This remedy has some drawbacks.

Litigation can be costly. In many cases, the likely value of the misappropriated material and any damages received will be less than the amount obtainable in a judgment.

You also have to deal with the very real problem of collecting a judgment. In many cases, the offending party will be unable to pay if you prevail, and collecting via wage attachment or other options may be inefficient and impractical.

If the case crosses into a foreign country, things become even more complicated. Enforcing a judgment against a foreign entity can be remarkably problematic.

Copyright infringement cases are governed by federal statute and case law and must be filed in a Federal District Court.

If you own a copyright and can successfully prove a violation, you may be able to win damages that approximate the profits lost from the infringement and the profit generated by the offender during the period of violation. You can also receive statutory damages that may reach as much as $150,000 per violation.

During the case itself, you may also be able to get a restraining order requiring the offending party to remove the material until the matter is resolved.

Fighting copyright infringement in the courts can make sense in the right situations. When the value of the content is significant and you can prove your case effectively, it may be sufficiently lucrative to pursue. A willingness to litigate may also signal that you take copyright infringement seriously, acting as a deterrent to other would-be thieves.

Pursuing a copyright infringement case does require a high level of specialized skill. Thus, anyone considering a case of this sort is advised to seek representation from appropriately qualified legal counsel. This is not a do-it-yourself project.

In most cases, litigation just doesn't make sense. However, it may be necessary when all other remedies are exhausted and a violating party refuses to take appropriate action.

Before instigating legal action, make sure you have clearly assessed the merits of your case with your attorney and that you are prepared to see the matter through. If you aren't ready to take that kind of action, it may make more sense to do your best to seek other remedies.

Brian Scott is a freelance journalist who covers copyright law for Download his free e-book, "Copyright Basics" at

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