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We are living in the era of increased internet connectivity, which means that you can easily access tons of information at the click of a button. But, as the internet usage takes center stage, cases of copyright infringement are on the rise. For starters, copyright is a set of exclusive legal rights owned by the original creator work such as films, music, books or images. Copyright laws exist to encourage creativity and invention as well as protect the author’s intellectual property.
Consequently, it almost goes without saying that if you use copyrighted work without the owner’s permission, he or she could take legal action against you. What does copyright infringement involve you ask? You are deemed to have violated the provisions of copyright law if you reproduce, distribute, perform or make derivatives of the original work without the owner’s authorization.
That said, what is the next course of action when get sued for copyright infringement? Here’s a copyright infringement attorney's perspective.
Don’t Make the Mistake of Ignoring the Copyright Infringement Notice Letter
Treat a copyright notice letter with the seriousness it deserves. You can be tempted to ignore the letter and hope that the problem somehow goes away but doing so will have serious consequences. By ignoring the notice, you’re pushing the copyright owner to spend more resources to protect their work. When your case goes to full trial, and the owner is successful, you will be compelled to pay the additional resources the copyright owner used to protect their work.
You Have Received a Copyright Infringement Notice. Now What? Should I Call the Copyright Owner or Their Attorney?
No. Do not get in touch with copyright holder or the lawyer immediately after receiving the infringement notice letter. Why? Because what you say can and will be used against you. You might have good intentions alright but, what you say can potentially leak information that your opponent can use to build his or her case. Note, the more evidence the opposing side gathers, the greater the likelihood of paying more in damages.
Know How Much Your Case is Worth
There is a lot that goes into copyright infringement lawsuits, and you’re better off getting well acquainted with what to expect. That way, building your case becomes easier, and you will also have a rough idea of what you might pay as damages if the copyright owner sues you successfully. Here’s a look at what you could be up against.
Cease and Desist/Minimal Fees – When a copyright infringement notice is served to you, the copyright owner will ask you to “cease and desist” use of his or her work. The specifications of a cease and desist letter are often practical. For instance, if you use work from Getty Images without permission, the company’s copyright policy seeks to recover the licensing fees that you would have initially paid had you obtained the image as required.
Litigation and Statutory Damages – If the copyright owner wants to engage in litigation against you for copyright infringement, then the state of affairs can escalate dramatically. Most often, litigation will result in statutory damages.
The United States federal copyright law provides that the original owner of copyrighted material can be entitled to damages worth $750 to $30,000 for every infringement. Additionally, if the copyright owner proves that infringement was intentional, you may end up paying $150,000 for every infringement.
The copyright laws aside, recent jury awards have ranged from $500,000 to $1,000,000. A good example is a Western Washington jury that awarded a copyright owner over $1,000,000 in damages for the illegal use of five images.
Investigate the Claims Brought Against You
With the help of a copyright infringement attorney, conduct an inquiry into the situation surrounding your case. Be sure to look into the following concerns:
- Where did the copyrighted material come from?
- Do you have a valid license that allows you to use the material?
- What is the license of the copyrighted work? Is the content listed anywhere on the internet under “creative commons” license?
- Is there a possibility that another party or independent contractor bought the copyright license?
- Is there a possibility that the license was under an employee’s name?
Check if the Copyright Holder Has a Case Against You
There are a few provisions of the law that may prevent a copyright owner from taking legal action against you for infringement such as;
- When the copyright owner waits unreasonably long to bring up the copyright claim
- When the statutory period has elapsed. Under the theory of Statute of Limitations, there is a definite time within which a complaint has to file a lawsuit. If the time runs out, the copyright holder cannot enforce his or her right to sue.
- If the copyright holder did not have a valid copyright at the date of using the work
What Should You Do if You Get Sued for Copyright Infringement?
If after assessing all the facts it is found that you have a case to answer, call an experienced copyright infringement attorney in your area right away. Copyright laws and suits are intricate, and it is important to get legal help to ensure that you build a strong defense. Often, consulting a lawyer is free, so you can ask anything you want without spending a dime.