If you're like most business owners, receiving a copyright violation notice can be downright alarming. Just reading the words “copyright infringement” in an ominous letter or email is enough to make your pulse quicken. The legalese may leave you confused and anxious as you rack your brain trying to recall if you actually used content improperly. Don't freak out just yet! Take a deep breath, grab a coffee, and let's walk through this together. There are steps you can take to address the issue in a strategic way. Here's an overview of what a copyright notice is, why you may have received one, and—most importantly—how to respond.
What is a copyright violation notice?
A copyright violation notice is a letter or email informing you that your business has allegedly infringed on someone's copyright through unauthorized use of their protected work. This could involve using a photo, song, video clip, software code, written content, or other copyrighted material on your website, in marketing materials, products, etc. without permission. The notice is sent by the copyright holder or an authorized representative.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) requires the notice to include specific details, such as identification of the copyrighted work allegedly infringed, the location and description of the infringing content, and contact information for the copyright holder submitting the claim. The notice acts as an official warning, and it means the copyright holder could pursue legal action if the situation is not remedied.
What should you do if you receive a copyright violation notice?
Don't panic. Take a deep breath and consider your response options. Here are some steps to take:
Review the notice carefully
Read through the notice thoroughly to ensure you understand what copyrighted content they are claiming you used. Make sure it is valid and does specify the location of the violation(s). If the notice does not follow proper DMCA guidelines, you may be able to contest its validity.
Evaluate your use of the content
Next, review how you used the copyrighted material identified in the notice. Did you properly obtain permission or license the content? Are you able to claim fair use exceptions in using it? If your use does legitimately infringe on their copyright, continuing to use the content could make you liable for copyright violation damages.
Remove or disable access to the infringing content
If you confirm your business is in the wrong, act quickly to fix the issue. Remove or disable access to the infringing content identified in the notice. The copyright holder could file a lawsuit against you if action is not taken to stop the copyright violation. Removing the content demonstrates a good faith effort to comply.
Respond to the notice
Let the copyright holder know you have received their notice and taken steps to address the infringing content. Provide details like when the content was removed or access disabled. Express your desire to resolve the issue amicably. If you believe your use of their copyrighted material is permissible, explain why and provide support for your position.
Evaluate ways to prevent future violations
Copyright violations can happen again if you are not careful. Review your content submission processes, employee training, etc. to identify gaps. Strengthen your procedures going forward to minimize infringement risk. For example, always get written licensing agreements for any third-party content you use. Also build in reviews before publication.
Consult an attorney
Copyright law can be complex, so it’s wise to have an intellectual property attorney review the notice and your response plan. They can provide legal guidance tailored to your situation and objectives. If the notice escalates to a lawsuit, their expertise will be invaluable in your defense. They can also help you implement smart copyright protections.
As you can see, copyright issues can become complex quickly, but avoiding infringement risks is possible with the right plan. Don't go it alone in responding to a notice or implementing preventative measures. The legal experts at Atlas Law Group are here to guide you through copyright disputes or assist in setting up protections for your original content. We make it our business to simplify complex corporate legal matters for clients. Whether you need help addressing a current notice or want counsel on avoiding violations down the road, give our office a call today. Our attorneys will provide experienced, caring advice so you can move forward with confidence.
Let Atlas Law Group take the weight off your shoulders, so you can get back to growing your business!