Discovering that someone has copied, performed, or distributed your original work and photography without permission can be alarming. In such situations, you may have the option to initiate a copyright infringement lawsuit, but this is contingent upon whether you have registered your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. If your work is not registered, you still retain copyright, but you cannot pursue a federal court lawsuit to protect it.
The first crucial step is ensuring that you genuinely own the copyright to the work you’ve created. Many individuals produce works as part of their employment, which are categorized as “works made for hire.” In such cases, the employer typically owns the copyright unless a different arrangement has been agreed upon between the employer and the employee.
Considering Alternatives to Litigation
Opting for a formal lawsuit can be a lengthy and costly process, especially since most copyright infringement cases require legal representation. It’s essential to assess whether the losses resulting from the infringement justify the time and resources required. Even if the losses are substantial, you might want to explore amicable solutions outside of court.
Sometimes, before engaging an attorney, it’s wise to pursue alternatives to litigation, as it demonstrates a willingness to resolve the matter without adversarial legal action. If you have a relationship with the infringer, this approach may be particularly effective, and you might reach a favorable agreement through informal discussions.
In cases where you don’t know the infringer, you can send a formal demand letter to clarify your rights and propose a meeting to discuss a resolution. If a company is responsible for the infringement, you can address the demand letter to the CEO.
Entities or individuals facing potential copyright infringement claims often prefer settling matters outside of court to avoid negative publicity associated with lawsuits. If your arguments have a strong legal foundation, it’s probable that the infringer will seek a settlement where they pay you a lump sum in exchange for releasing your legal claims. Mediation can also assist in reaching a resolution if direct negotiations are challenging. A mediator, a neutral third party, facilitates both sides in understanding each other’s perspectives and finding an acceptable compromise.
Getting Started on Your Case
If negotiations or mediation fail to resolve the issue, engaging an attorney becomes crucial for the copyright owner. Look for an attorney with expertise in intellectual property law and experience handling copyright infringement cases. At Westlord & Associates Legal, we handle your claims, cover your legal expenses, and connect you with world-class attorneys in 48 countries through our global legal network.
Your attorney will initiate the lawsuit by filing a complaint in the appropriate court and serving it to the infringer. Subsequently, the infringer is likely to file a response, and the case will progress through the stages of evidence gathering and trial preparation.
Getting Started on Your Copyright Infringement Case
- Consultation with an Attorney: Once you decide to pursue a copyright infringement case, the first step is to consult with an experienced attorney specializing in intellectual property law. Given your background as a copyright attorney, you may have familiarity with potential candidates. If not, you can seek recommendations from professional networks or legal associations.
Selecting the Right Attorney: Choose an attorney who not only specializes in intellectual property law but also has a proven track record of handling copyright infringement cases. It’s essential to find someone who understands the intricacies of copyright law, as it can be complex.
- Initial Assessment: During your initial consultation with the attorney, provide them with all relevant details about the copyright infringement. This includes evidence of the infringement, such as copies of the copyrighted work, any communication with the infringer, and information about any prior attempts at resolution.
- Attorney’s Evaluation: Your attorney will carefully evaluate your case, considering the strength of your copyright claim, the extent of the infringement, and the potential damages. They will advise you on the likelihood of success in pursuing legal action.
- Filing a Complaint: If you and your attorney decide to proceed with a lawsuit, the next step is to draft and file a complaint in the appropriate court. The complaint outlines the details of your copyright claim, including the nature of the infringement and the relief you are seeking.
- Serving the Infringer: After filing the complaint, your attorney will ensure that it is properly served on the infringing party. This involves delivering a copy of the complaint and a summons, which notifies the defendant of the lawsuit and their obligation to respond.
- Response from the Infringer: The infringing party has a specified period, typically 21 to 30 days, to respond to the complaint. They may choose to admit or deny the allegations, and they can also raise affirmative defenses if applicable.
- Discovery Phase: Once the initial pleadings are complete, the case enters the discovery phase. During this stage, both parties exchange information and evidence relevant to the case. Discovery tools may include requests for documents, interrogatories, and depositions.
- Pretrial Preparation: Your attorney will diligently prepare your case for trial during this phase. This involves identifying and interviewing witnesses, consulting experts if necessary, and ensuring that all evidence is properly organized and presented.
- Settlement Negotiations: Throughout the litigation process, there may be opportunities for settlement negotiations. Your attorney can engage in discussions with the infringing party or their legal representation to explore potential resolutions. Settlement can occur at any point before a final judgment is rendered.
- Trial: If a settlement cannot be reached, the case proceeds to trial. During the trial, both parties present their arguments, evidence, and witnesses before a judge or jury. Your attorney will advocate on your behalf to establish the copyright infringement and the damages you are entitled to.
- Judgment: After the trial concludes, the court will render a judgment. This judgment will determine whether copyright infringement occurred, the extent of damages (if any), and any injunctions or remedies that should be granted.
- Post-Trial Options: Depending on the outcome, there may be post-trial motions or appeals. Your attorney will advise you on the best course of action based on the judgment.
Remember that each copyright infringement case is unique, and the specifics of your case may vary. It’s essential to work closely with your attorney throughout the process to navigate the legal complexities effectively and protect your copyright interests.