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What to Do if Your Copyrighted Work Has Been Stolen

Posted on in Intellectual Property

Florida copyright infringement lawyerDo you create copyrighted works, either as your main source of income or as a tool for marketing your business? You surely take great pride in your creations. Naturally, you want as many people as possible to see and buy your work.

The internet enables you to reach potentially millions of people with your copyrighted material. But it has also made it incredibly easy for unscrupulous people to discover your work and use it for their own purposes. Theft of copyrighted content happens every day to bloggers, photographers, ebook authors, graphic artists, YouTube video producers, songwriters, and many more. 

At some point, you may be infuriated to discover that someone is distributing or selling your work for their own benefit. Whether you call it plagiarism, piracy, copyright infringement, content jacking, or theft of intellectual property (IP), it is unethical, illegal, and financially costly for you. Now, what can you do about it?

Legal Options to Deal With Copyright Infringement

If you discover an unauthorized use of your copyrighted work, you need to act quickly. Civil lawsuits seeking damages for copyright infringement are subject to a three-year statute of limitations. In other words, you have three years from the time you discover an infringement, or reasonably should have discovered it, to file a lawsuit. 

The usual first step is to have an attorney write a cease-and-desist letter to the offending website, business, or individual. If the infringement was unintentional, the offender should respond quickly. For example, a website may have published a photograph that they did not realize was copyrighted by someone other than the person they got it from. An attorney may also negotiate with the offender to pay you for the use they have already gotten from your work. 

If the damage caused to you by the copyright violation is significant, and an out-of-court settlement cannot be reached, you can sue the offender in civil court. Once you file a lawsuit, you can request an immediate court order (a temporary restraining order or injunction) to force the accused infringer to stop using the creative work in question. 

If you win the lawsuit, you may be awarded monetary compensation equal to your actual damages (that is, lost profits from the sale of your work). Because actual damages can be difficult to determine, federal law provides an alternative called statutory damages. 

If the court awards statutory damages and determines that the infringement was unintentional, you will receive an amount between $750 and $30,000 for each copyrighted work that was violated. However, if the court finds that the offense was intentional, or that the offender exhibited reckless disregard for copyright law, the court can render a finding of willful infringement and award statutory damages of up to $150,000 per work. Hundreds of thousands of dollars for legal fees may also be awarded.

Contact a Tampa Intellectual Property Attorney 

Online content theft is a growing problem. A St. Petersburg copyright attorney who is highly knowledgeable in cyber law can help. At Nelson Cyber Law, PLLC, we stay up-to-date on both Florida and federal copyright laws, particularly as they pertain to digital and online content. If you have been the victim of IP theft, we will act quickly and aggressively to defend your legal rights and protect your earnings. We can also help you take proactive measures to protect your creative work. Call 1-800-440-5536 to schedule a free consultation.

Sources:

https://www.copyright.gov/title17/

https://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap5.html

http://smallbusiness.chron.com/federal-statute-limitations-copyright-infringement-64917.html

http://www.latimes.com/fashion/la-ig-wwd-urban-oufitters-reckless-fabric-copying-20170405-story.html

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