WestLord & Associates

What to Do When You Receive a Copyright Infringement Notice

Receiving a copyright infringement notice can be a daunting experience, and it’s crucial to understand how to respond effectively. Whether you’ve received a notice or discovered that your copyrighted work is allegedly infringed upon, it’s essential to grasp the potential consequences and how to navigate this complex legal landscape. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the key steps to take when facing a copyright infringement notice.

To comprehend the gravity of a copyright infringement notice, it’s imperative to grasp what copyright infringement entails. Copyright law grants the copyright owner exclusive rights to their work, including the right to:

  • Reproduce the work
  • Create derivative works
  • Distribute copies to the public
  • Publicly display and perform the work

Copyright infringement occurs when someone utilizes a copyrighted work without the permission of the copyright owner, thereby infringing on one or more of these exclusive rights. To establish a copyright infringement in a legal setting, the copyright owner must demonstrate two critical elements:

  • Ownership of a Valid Copyright: The copyright owner must possess a legally valid copyright for the work in question.
  • Violation of Exclusive Rights: The alleged infringer must have violated one or more of the copyright owner’s exclusive rights.

Why Take a Copyright Infringement Notice Seriously:

Ignoring a copyright infringement notice is not advisable, as it can lead to legal repercussions. Failure to respond to such a notice can escalate the situation, potentially resulting in a lawsuit. The damages for copyright infringement can include:

  • Statutory Damages: These damages can range from $750 to $30,000 per copyrighted work infringed upon.
  • Increased Statutory Damages: If the infringement is found to be willful, statutory damages can increase significantly, reaching up to $150,000 per copyrighted work infringed upon.
  • Loss in Value and Infringer’s Profits: Copyright infringement can also result in damages related to the loss in value of the copyrighted work and the profits gained by the infringing party.

Upon receiving a copyright infringement notice, it’s essential to approach the situation thoughtfully. Here are some information to consider:

  • Careful Reading: Thoroughly read the copyright infringement notice. It should clearly identify the allegedly infringing work and provide crucial details about the copyrighted work, including proof of ownership.
  • Investigate the Infringing Work: Determine the origin of the allegedly infringing work. Was it created internally within your company, or do you possess a valid license for its use? Understanding your rights to the work is crucial in mounting a defense against the infringement claim.
  • Research the Copyrighted Work: The notice should offer evidence of ownership of the copyrighted work. If the copyright owner claims to have registered the copyright, you can search for the registration on the U.S. Copyright website for verification.
  • Evaluate Infringement: Assess whether infringement indeed occurred. Do you have permission to use the work, or is your use substantially similar to the copyrighted work?
  • Consider Defenses: Recognize potential defenses to the infringement claim. Copyright law provides exemptions, such as the fair use doctrine, which allows specific uses of copyrighted material for purposes like criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research.
  • Investigate the Cause: If infringement is evident, investigate how it transpired. Understanding the circumstances of the infringement, whether it was inadvertent or an intentional act by an employee, is critical in determining your potential liability.
  • Preserve Evidence: Take necessary steps to preserve all relevant documents, files, emails, social media posts, or any other materials related to the allegedly infringing work. This may entail suspending automatic deletion policies and prohibiting employees from destroying relevant documents.
  • Collect Documents and Information: As part of the investigation, gather all written documents relevant to the alleged infringement. This complements your efforts to preserve evidence. Additionally, compile information related to any profits arising from the use of the work, as it will help determine the scope of potential damages.
  • Review Insurance Policies: Consult your commercial general liability (CGL) and errors and insurance policies. These policies may provide coverage for copyright infringement claims. Your insurance agent or broker can help determine if you have such coverage. Ensure that any insurance claims are submitted promptly in accordance with policy terms.
  • Prepare a Thoughtful Response: Draft a response that outlines the circumstances surrounding your use of the work, including any rights you have to it and any defenses you can raise. It’s advisable to consult with legal counsel to craft an appropriate response.

Given the potential financial implications and legal consequences of a copyright lawsuit, it’s imperative to treat a copyright infringement notice with utmost seriousness. Careful consideration and a strategic response can make a significant difference in how the situation unfolds. If you have any questions about a copyright notice, please don’t hesitate to reach out for guidance.