Copyright infringement has been a steadily growing problem since the internet gained popularity back in the mid-1990's. Authors, musicians, artists, and the creators of other original works have struggled to monitor, identify and protect their copyrighted works from unlicensed third party usage and blatant intentional infringement.
While a copyright does not need to be registered with the United States Copyright Office in order to be protected, registration of your copyrights provides significant leverage over third party infringement. This includes penalty damages and the award of attorneys' fees in cases of intentional or bad faith infringement. The minute your original copyright protected work becomes available on the internet, it becomes extremely easy for someone to copy, publisher reproduce the work for their own purposes. This can be music rendered to an .MP3, web pages and articles, such as this one appearing here, and other works of authorship, artist renditions, including logos, graphics, and pictures.
The most challenging aspect of protecting your copyrights online is actually identifying unlicensed uses of your work. There are a variety of tactics which people use in order to identify infringers. Special software will mark your copyright protected images, audio or video files for tracking online. Various monitoring tools can tell you when online articles or web pages are reproduced in substantial part elsewhere. Monitoring for copyright infringement is critical, since your chance of happening upon an infringing work is extremely small. Simply keeping your eyes shut to third party uses could result in a waiver of your rights.
The next step is to send a threat letter to everyone involved in the online display of your copyright protected original work. This would include the web hosting company, third party provider of web services (eBay, Typepad, Amazon.com, etc.), domain registrant, and anyone else whose systems or technology make the display of the infringing work possible. If a copyright infringement threat letter does not result in the protected work being removed from a website, litigation is typically the next option.
Mr. Schaefer is a seasoned trial attorney practicing copyright law on a global basis. Mr. Schaefer has first chair trial experience in a wide variety of litigation matters, including class action litigation, copyright law, internet and domain law, cybersquatting actions, intellectual property, commercial and fiduciary litigation, UDRP and IP licensing. He is a frequent author and presenter on issues related to protecting business interests in a global internet economy.
To find out more about copyright law, trademark protection, cybersquatting and complex litigation, please visit Traverse Legal, PLC or visit our copyright blog.