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Taking action when someone violates your copyright online

The unique images and words that your company uses to define itself and reach consumers, as well as the images and words included in your products themselves, have protection under federal copyright law. Unfortunately, many people treat the internet as the place where copyright does not exist.

People may steal your artwork, videos, words and photographs to display on their website. They might even print them on shirts and try selling them on social media. Other times, articles, advertisements or whole books could wind up stolen by someone unscrupulous who wants to sell them to others or use them on a website.

Thankfully, when you publish or make public your original works, you should receive copyright protections. Even when you share something on the internet, that doesn't mean that your creation is fair game for anyone to steal. However, you need to take decisive legal action to enforce your copyright online.

Determine the source of the copyright violation

The first step you need to take is figuring out who is responsible for the violation of your copyright and who will profit from it. If it is a domestic business or individual, you can take immediate legal action. Other times, you may need to work with an attorney to determine who is legally culpable in the situation.

Send a formal letter telling them about the violation

Once you determine who is at fault for the copyright violation, you must assert your copyright to that individual or company. In other words, you should send them a letter, ideally drafted by an attorney, telling them to cease and desist in the use of your copyrighted material.

Sometimes, it is simply a mistake or oversight that results in someone misusing copyrighted materials. Those individuals will likely take immediate steps to remedy the situation. Other times, the copyright infringement is an intentional act. Those individuals may not stop using your text, videos or images. In that situation, refusing to take them down is a way of calling your bluff. You will need to then take them to court to protect yourself.

Document everything, including their website

Companies that engage in copyright infringement practices may eventually attempt to cover their tracks by deleting entire web pages. You want to make a thorough record of the digital footprint that shows the use of your ideas, words, images or videos. Any information regarding the number of people who have purchased the item or access the page can also help you demonstrate the financial consequences of that infringement.

Presenting evidence to the courts regarding the use of your copyrighted information online as well as what profit you suspect the other company has made will help you successfully pursue a claim. The courts may award you what they believe the financial impact of the copyright infringement was for your company. They could also award you any income that the other party made through the unauthorized use of your content.

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