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Copyright Infringement: Recent Lawsuits Highlight What NOT to Do

Posted on in Intellectual Property

St. Petersburg copyright infringement lawyerVirtually any business can wind up being sued for copyright infringement. However, some types of businesses are more at risk than others, including those in the online retail, consumer goods manufacturing, and entertainment industries. Lawsuits in these industries are not uncommon, and damages payouts often run into the hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.

A quick review of some recent court cases can help you learn what NOT to do, so you can avoid a similar fate for your business.

Print-on-Demand Services Can Be Liable for Copyright Infringement

Print-on-demand (PoD) services have become very popular with consumers. These online businesses allow users to upload their own photos or designs to be printed on a variety of items such as T-shirts, notebooks, and art canvases. 

A PoD service must employ sophisticated methods to screen user-uploaded images, doing its best to prevent the unauthorized reproduction of copyrighted images. Unfortunately, 100% accuracy is virtually impossible.

So, what happens if a copyright-infringing image sneaks through the PoD service’s screening? Is only the user who uploaded the copyrighted image liable to be sued? Or can the PoD company be sued for copyright infringement, because it produced new items bearing the copyrighted image? 

A recent lawsuit alleged the latter, and a PoD provider was ordered to pay the copyright holder $351,100 in statutory damages. This places a significant burden on PoD services to ensure that their screening procedures are highly accurate. 

Reckless Disregard for Copyrights Can Be Very Costly

Under U.S. copyright law, the basic design of “useful articles” (such as clothing, furniture, and dinnerware) cannot be copyrighted. In other words, you cannot copyright the utilitarian shape of a shirt, chair, or cup. 

However, a distinct graphic design, which might be printed onto fabric or carved into the back of a chair, can be copyrighted.

As one recent lawsuit proved, clothing manufacturers must be very careful not to infringe on fabric design copyrights. The clothing manufacturer in question had reviewed samples from a fabric designer but did not pay the necessary licensing fees for any of those designs. Instead, the manufacturer drew up a nearly identical design and ordered fabric to be printed with that design. The original fabric designer then sued the manufacturer for copyright infringement. A trial court ordered the manufacturer to pay the fabric designer $530,000 for “reckless disregard” of copyright law.

Consult an Experienced Florida Cyber Law Attorney 

Virtually any type of business can be accused of copyright infringement, but businesses that involve the reproduction, distribution, or sale of creative works (graphic designs, music, etc.) must be extra careful. To minimize your business’s risk of a copyright infringement lawsuit, seek counsel from a Tampa copyright attorney. At Nelson Cyber Law, PLLC, we keep abreast of the latest copyright laws and court decisions. We can help ensure that your business remains in compliance with intellectual property laws. Should you ever be accused of copyright infringement, we can provide a rigorous defense. Call 1-800-440-5536 today to schedule a free consultation.




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