Nuts and Bolts: Copyright Infringement – What to Do
Whenever an artist puts their work on the Internet, the potential for copyright infringement is unavoidable. Even if the infringement is unintended, you should take reasonable steps to protect your intellectual property.
Here are tips that will help you identify and attempt to end such infringement. This is NOT intended as legal advice. We’re sharing our own experience. If you really need an attorney, get one.
What To Do If Someone Infringes On Your Copyright
Check the Internet: To discover copyright infringements, search engines like Google are your best friend. Every few months—there’s no need to go crazy— look up your name, your company name, and any other identifying details.
Make Contact: If you find a website or blog containing your image(s), whether for sale or for free, first look for contact info. Most sites have at least an e-mail address for getting in touch with the owner. Start by sending a polite note stating that you are the copyright owner of the images in question, the URL(s) of the pages where your art is displayed, and ask the images be removed within a reasonable time.
Why not send an official takedown notice right away? Because a lot of the time, the infringer doesn’t even realize they’re basically stealing your work. Many infringers are private individuals who will work with you once they understand they’re doing wrong. The best strategy is begin by giving the benefit of a doubt and go on from there.
Here’s an example:
Dear (Owner’s name if you find one):
My name is (NAME) and I’m writing to let you know that the images you’re displaying on the following pages – (URLs) – is my copyrighted intellectual property and your use is in violation of Section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Please remove these images by (DATE). If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. Thank you.
Get the ISP Involved: If you’re unable to get satisfaction from the website owner, your next step is to contact the site’s ISP (Internet Service Provider). According to law, once contacted, they are obligated to remove the disputed material or face penalties. To find out a site’s ISP, use WhoIs Lookup. For sites with a country code (such as .uk, .jp, etc) you can try UWhoIs.com. Be aware that it can be almost impossible to get an ISP in a country other than the US to comply with your request. If it happens, my advice is to let it go and don’t waste your time unless you’ve got legal resources to burn.
Here’s an example of a DCMA takedown notice. Be sure to include your name, address and phone number as well as a physical or electronic signature. For more info and an easy to understand explanation, read In Plain English: A Quick Guide to DCMA Takedown Notices.
My name is (NAME). A website your company hosts is infringing a copyright (OR NUMBER OF COPYRIGHTS) on image(s) owned by (ME or MY COMPANY).
The infringing images can be found at (URLs).
This letter is official notification under Section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and I seek the removal of the aforementioned infringing material from your servers. I request that you immediately notify the infringer of this notice and inform them of their duty to remove the infringing material immediately, and notify them to cease any further posting of infringing material to your server in the future.
Please also be advised that law requires you, as a service provider, to remove or disable access to the infringing materials upon receiving this notice. Under US law a service provider enjoys immunity from a copyright lawsuit provided you act with deliberate speed to investigate and rectify ongoing copyright infringement. If service providers do not investigate and remove or disable the infringing material this immunity is lost. Therefore, for you to remain immune from a copyright infringement action you will need to investigate and ultimately remove or otherwise disable the infringing material from your servers with all due speed should the direct infringer, your client, not comply immediately.
I am providing this notice in good faith and with the reasonable belief that the rights (I or MY COMPANY) own are being infringed. Under penalty of perjury I certify that the information contained in the notification is both true and accurate, and I have the authority to act on behalf of the owner of the copyright(s) involved.
Is the Infrnger Using AdSense? Google takes DCMA notices very seriously. If the infringer’s site has AdSense ads, you can report them to Google using the form linked on this blog post (see the bottom).
Get Legal Advice: Escalating to a lawsuit against an infringer is expensive in terms of time and money. However, if you really feel you must, or you want some legal advice on how to proceed, you’ll need a lawyer who has experience with copyright laws in your country. If you live in the U.S., Find Local Intellectual Property Lawyers offers a state by state search.
Protect Yourself by Registering: If your brand is a major source of income and you want to cover all your bases in case of possible future infringement with an eye to legal action, you can register your copyrights in the U.S. For more information on how to proceed, read Copyright Registration Law and Your Artwork.
And Finally, Let It Go: Sometimes, it just won’t be possible for you to do anything else about a copyright infringement. When that happens—and it will, it happens to every artist eventually—don’t fret yourself into a state or let the situation ruin your mood. Just let it go and move on to more productive matters like designing new cards or promoting your products so you’ll make even more $$ in the future.