Copyright infringements are harmful.
They hurt brands, business owners and creators, and damage affected industries and the economy as a whole.
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There are protections for copyright owners, but they require reporting, and reporting copyright violations is not always easy.
To help, we have compiled a copyright protection guide so you can safeguard what’s yours.
What is a copyright?
Copyrights are intellectual property assets.
Copyrights protect original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression, “… including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works,” as described by the U.S. Copyright Office. Once the conditions set out in the law are met, original creative works are protected regardless of their merit or commercial value.
What is copyright violation
Copyrights protect ownership of unique works and restrict unauthorized use of the work.
A copyright violation occurs when someone uses a protected work without the consent of the owner.
Copyright intellectual property protection covers different types of work, including online content.
Therefore, saying that copyright protects “original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression” includes all perceptible manifestations, such as the one you can see on a computer screen, a mobile phone, or any other device.
For example, photos on an online store are protected by copyright, as is the text on a website.
In broad terms, copyright gives the copyright owner the sole right to produce or reproduce a work or a substantial part of it.
Copyright owners have exclusive rights to copy, display, distribute, sell, or perform their works, and to create derivative works.
Since the copyright owner has sole discretion as to how his work is used, others who want to use it must obtain permission.
Using a copyrighted work without the owner’s authorization may constitute copyright infringement. Although against the law, copyright violations are all too common, especially online.
Counterfeiters and other scammers simply copy and paste content and upload it online for their purposes, such as fake ads and website spoofing.
Copy-paste-upload is all it takes to misuse your content.
So what can you do if you find out your copyrights are infringed?
If your work is found online without your permission, you have the right to launch a takedown notice to a website, platform, or online service provider.
Reporting a web page for copyright violations through a takedown notice is expected to result in the elimination of the infringing content from the online platform.
Since copyright comes into being as soon as you have an original work of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression, exercising your rights through a takedown request does not necessarily require your work to be registered.
For example, if someone took a photo of your content and uploaded it to a website, you have the right to launch a takedown notice and for the website to take the infringing content down.
Although the internet is international, copyrights are not.
You do not automatically gain copyright protection in every country and region, and protection depends on national laws.
Having said that, many countries do offer protections. International copyright treaties and conventions further help copyright owners protect their intellectual property.
Despite the fact that different countries or regions each have their laws, generally, copyrights apply from the time the work is created.
In many territories, copyright owners can also register their copyright at the copyright office.
There are advantages to registering copyrights.
When you register your copyright, you get a certificate of registration, and your intellectual property rights are part of the public record.
To file a lawsuit, you need a certificate of registration or letter of refusal. And in court, registration is considered prima facie evidence of your right (if done within 5 years of creation).
When litigation is successful, registered works may also be eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, known by its acronym DMCA, addresses copyrights and the internet.
It provides protection for online service providers in certain situations.
The DMCA then goes on to establish the notice-and-takedown system that allows copyright owners to inform online service providers about infringing content so they can take it down.
This is often referred to as a DMCA Takedown.
Copyright violations can also be resolved in court through the DMCA act.
The more recent copyright alternative is the Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act of 2020 which establishes the Copyright Claims Board (CCB).
Part of the U.S. Copyright Office, this is an alternative to federal court and offers a way to resolve copyright disputes for small claims (currently set at $30,000).
Exceptions to copyright violations
Not everything is protected by copyright.
Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed (read more here).
Also, remember that there are other types of intellectual property protection.
Copyrights do not protect brand names or slogans – protected by trademarks, or inventions – protected by patents.
Some use of copyrighted materials is allowed, mainly if it qualifies as fair use.
Fair use permits a third party to use copyrighted materials without permission for specific purposes.
These include criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research.
Fair use has no clear rules and it is decided on a case-by-case basis.
When determining fair use, we mentioned the purpose of the use.
Other factors include the nature of the copyrighted work; the amount and substantiality of the part of the work used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and the effect of the use on the market or value of the copyrighted work.
Since fair use can be used as a defense, it may be good to consider whether the use you wish to report may qualify as fair use.
Only then go ahead with the takedown notice.
Reporting a web page for copyright violations
A DMCA takedown happens when content is removed from a website or another online platform at the request of the copyright owner whose work is being used online without permission.
A copyright owner or authorized representative can send a DMCA takedown notice to the website where the copyright violation is taking place.
In this request, they can ask that the infringing content, image, or link be taken down from the website.
The DMCA Takedown is well established everywhere and it is used by website owners to accept reports regarding copyright violations.
The same is true for internet service providers.
How to report a copyright violation?
To eliminate online copyright violations:
- Collect evidence that proves the infringement. With online infringements, you can use links, screenshots, or any other information.
- Send a DMCA takedown notice to the infringer.
- File a DMCA takedown notice and report the violation to the website, and every other relevant source, including marketplaces, social media platforms, search engines and the authorities.
Why it is important to report copyright violations
Brand owners and content creators rely on copyright protection.
Reporting copyright violations is necessary to remove unlawful infringements and stop scammers.
If left unreported, the effects can be harmful, even devastating. When online criminals infringe on copyrights, they often intend to impersonate the brand or sell counterfeit goods.
When this happens, they divert traffic from the lawful brand to their site, where every sale is a lost sale for the brand.
Moreover, when consumers unknowingly purchase a counterfeit or are otherwise scammed, they lose their trust in the brand.
In addition, and depending on the work, copyright violations can result in diminished value for the work or brand.
Examples of reporting a web page for copyright violations
Numerous websites and social media platforms have forms for reporting copyright violations. Here are a few examples:
Some platforms will also suspend or terminate accounts for repeatedly infringing on copyrights.
Get help reporting copyright violations
Having your copyrights being used online without your consent can damage your brand and your consumers.
When copyrights are stolen, brands can lose sales and brand trust as consumers fall victim to counterfeiting and online fraud.
To protect your intellectual property online, you need to proactively enforce your rights, starting with reporting copyright violations.
Manually monitoring and reporting copyright violations is not a practical solution.
Wiser Market can help you with automated copyright violation detection and removal, a tailored online brand protection strategy, and personal service by our team of experts.
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Contact us for a Free Demo:
When is my work protected?
Your work gains copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form of expression.
Do I have to register with the Copyright Office to be protected?
In the U.S., the answer is no, and it is similar in most countries and regions around the world. Although registration is not mandatory, you do need to register if you want to bring a lawsuit for infringement in the U.S.
Do I have to register the work to file a DMCA takedown notice?
A DMCA takedown notice applies whether the work has been registered with the U.S. Copyright Office or not. If the content belongs to you or if you are the subject of the content, image, or video can be enough to file a takedown notice and have the content taken down.
Is unpublished work protected by copyright?
Yes. Copyrights protect both published and unpublished works.
Who can file a DMCA takedown notice?
Only copyright owners and their agents.
What are examples of copyright violations?
Online copyright infringements can happen in different ways. Here are common examples of copyright violations:
- Unauthorized images – original photographs and graphics are protected by copyright law. Still, they keep on being replicated and uploaded online.
- Text violations – Stealing your brand copy or long-form text and uploading it on a website or social media account is unlawful. Online criminals can use it to impersonate your brand’s website or social media accounts.
- Illegal streaming – Whether video or music, uploading them is illegal and yet it happens all the time.
Is copyright violation always malicious?
Whether copyright infringement is done for malicious purposes or not, it is illegal, and you can take action to stop it.