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Social Media and Copyright Infringement

Social media has become a tool for networking and communication between individuals ranging from celebrity status to average individuals seeking individualism and self-expression. Today with a click of a button anyone anywhere can share their latest creations, lyrics, images, writings, music, etc. with the world. Although this opportunity allows the image to increase in popularity and allows for many other individuals to admire the work it also allows for the works to become misappropriated by other individuals or corporations. While there are laws and regulations, including those of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, that seek to place limitations on unlawful usages of copyrighted works these laws do not stop the unlawful actions from taking place. For many artists even a copyright was not enough to protect their work from online defalcators; which is why it is so important to legally address when your intellectual work rights have been infringed upon.

How Do I Know If a Copyright Infringement Has Occurred?

It is difficult in some cases to identify if a copyright infringement has occurred, because federal law allows for some images and content to be used by the media and other sources for commentary purposes, education, expression, and parody. There are also other stipulations within the law that state that certain manipulations to the original work may constitute as an entirely new work altogether and therefore meaning that a copyright infringement did not occur. A good rule of thumb to measuring on whether or not a violation has occurred is to identify if the work appears to be in its original format and appears unaltered – for example the image remains the same size, color, and clarity; and still retains the original watermark or logo originally included by the artist. If the image appears to be identical and the artist is not cited as credible for the work then a “willful” copyright violation has occurred. In most cases however, the copyright infringement is not so clear and a court ruling may need to establish whether a violation has taken place in light of the evidence. If you are unsure if a violation has occurred then it is important to contact an attorney with entertainment law experience to identify whether or not you have legitimate legal standing.

How Do You Stop a Copyright Infringement Online?

The first step to stopping an online copyright infringement is to immediately contact the person or organization directly and personally ask them to remove each of the specific items from their site or other usage platform due to a copyright violation. If no return contact is made or the user fails to remove the work from the web site then you should consult with an attorney to legally draft and send a cease and desist letter, specifically claiming the damages, and asking for the information to be removed with failure of compliance leading to legal action. In most instances a cease and desist letter will work and will induce the company or individual to remove the content in question. However, if this does not appear to be the case and you wish for the content to be removed from the website then you may contact the website host and address the concern with a copy of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. You and or your attorney in producing the Digital Millennium Copyrights Act to the individual / corporation will need to select the specific articles that are pertinent to the particular infringement recognized by federal law. Once a site host receives a notice of the infringement they must perform an ISP takedown and will disable the site and break the link location. In producing this notice it is important to list all claims as fact as any type of fraudulent claims can cost the false accuser monetary fines and perjury charges. Also it is important to remember to heavily document the appearance of the work on the sites page through screen shots and photographs and to also document specifically the dates and original publication information from when you first published the document for online use. The legitimacy of your claims may be called into question if your case goes to court and you will need a plethora of documentary evidence to support your case.

I Didn’t Have a Copyright On the Work. Do I Still Have a Claim?

Yes, you may still have a claim to the work depending on certain facts in the case. In many cases an infringement of the work occurs before the work has been formally registered by the owner. An owner of the work may claim a copyright infringement at any time; however, if there isn’t a copyright on the work and then this may impact what you may pursue in terms of injunctions and other remedies against the illegitimate user. If the infringement occurred before the work was copyrighted then the owner may seek actual damages, lost profits; as well as impounding and disposition of the work. On the other hand if the owner failed to register the work then they may not be entitled to seek statutory damages of attorney’s fees. In some circumstances it may still be possible for the owner to seek statutory damages and attorney’s fees so long as the infringement:

1) occurred during the registration process,

2) infringement occurred within 3 months after the first publication of the work, or

3) an application, deposit, and fee are received in the Copyright Office within the 3 month window of the earliest published work.

When to Sue for a Copyright Infringement:

If a copyright infringement is found to be “willful” then the defalcator could become subject to a federal suit, federal conviction, jail time, and monetary penalties. In a case that values the copyrighted work of more than $1,000- $2,500 the defalcator could be subjected if found guilty to no less than a year in federal prison, and serious monetary court fines. On top of the courts judgments the defalcator could also be subjected to civil injunctions that could cost the offender up to $150,000 dollars for each individual violation. However, it would be unwise to follow suit in a situation unless the approximate value of the work is believed to be higher than that of anticipated court cost. Filing suit over works with little monetary value could lead to small payoffs that will barely cover your attorney’s fees. In smaller cases it is possible to take the individuals to small claims court where the approximate value and payoff would be capped by the capacity of the court. The solution of small claims court may also aid smaller profile cases by reducing the need for an attorney. So overall an individual should only sue on a copyright infringement if he or she believes that the cost or approximate value outweighs the approximate cost of legal fees and will still produce a significant return.

Where Can Copyright Violations Occur?

Copyright violations can occur anywhere, but the heightened use of the internet makes trafficking illegally copied works easier and faster. Copy right violations can also occur as a result of a breach of contract or any other agreement in the sports of entertainment industry. If you believe that a copyright violation has occurred that deliberately violated your sports or entertainment contract please consult with the attorneys at Coleman Legal Group to review your case. Call 770-609-1247 to speak with an attorney now.