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Do's and don'ts of handling online copyright disputes

The Internet is the hardest type of media to police. It sometimes appears that Internet users believe all data is free for the taking. But just because something is on the Internet does not mean it is exempt from copyright or plagiarism laws.

If you have registered copyrights and trademarks and find that someone else has used them on the Internet, your first reaction might be anger, shock or surprise. What should you do? You want to handle the situation in the best way possible. Here are some do's and don'ts to resolve the situation:

  • Don't react with your emotions. A knee-jerk reaction can only make the dispute harder to resolve.
  • Do not send demanding or confrontational communication by email or post it on social media sites. Whatever you say may be reposted, cause an online battle or make your claims harder to defend later.
  • Gather evidence of the infringement, such as photographing or saving a screenshot of the Internet page. The copyright infraction may be removed from the Internet as soon as any action is taken, leaving you with no proof that anyone violated your rights.
  • Make sure you are the actual owner of the copyright and that you haven't granted a license to anyone else for use.
  • Consider the possibility of turning the infringement into a profit. The alleged infringing party may consider paying for rights to limited use of your intellectual property. A partnership might even be an option.
  • Most importantly, learn all you can about your legal position before taking any action.

An attorney experienced in business litigation can provide you with options to resolve an infringement on your intellectual property. It may not all be negative and could end up being profitable for you. It could potentially even create some positive public relations for your brand. Remaining cool is vital to avoid drawing negative attention to your company, especially if your copyrighted property was used for a charitable cause.

Source: Forbes, "Responsible Enforcement: How To Handle Copyright Disputes," Art Neill, Jan. 31, 2018

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