How to handle copyright infringement. What to do and NOT do.

It happens. Occasionally, a content creator will find that their content (ie; original text, images, etc.) have been used/posted and claimed as owned by someone else. This is what we call Copyright Infringement and it sucks. It stinks and creates a feeling of frustration and sometimes panic.

What you do and how you react when you find that your content has been used and claimed by another person or business, is just as important as the infringement itself.

I am the victim of copyright infringement. What should I do if my content has been stolen?

First things first: always reach out to the individual privately and directly. In most cases, the content was posted by mistake and an innocent error. Handling things in a diplomatic and private way with the potential infringer, is the best and most swift way to resolve any errors.

What not to do

  • Do not rush to judgement before knowing what, why or how it happened (there is usually a reasonable explanation). Copyright infringement CAN happen if the infringer is unaware of the law.
  • Do not immediately rush to make public posts and comments before allowing the individual a chance to correct the potential error
  • Do not make disparaging comments publicly (especially if you haven’t given the individual a change to respond)
  • Do not forget that reputation is everything and although copyright infringement is never acceptable, there is usually a easy fix without causing more damage
  • Do not be a cyber-bully in an attempt to get the result you want; This is never EVER the way to handle business situations.
  • Allow the person 24 hours to respond to your inquiry since people are in different time zones and aren’t online 24 hours a day

What to do

  • Try and give the benefit of the doubt to the person or company when trying to reach them
  • Send a private message to the individual or company alerting them to the copyright infringment
  • Inform and ask specific questions in an attempt to resolve the infringement issue(s) in a timely manner
  • Be prepared to show or provide evidence of the infringed content
  • Remain calm as the issue will likely get resolved without having to take things further
  • Depending on the type of content, remember that the individual is also a content creator and is equally protective of their creations

Things to keep in mind

Remember, every person is imperfect. Yes, even you. It’s a fact. You have definitely made mistakes along the way, and I write that with 100% confidence. Remember the time when you didn’t know as much as you know today. We are all human. Imagine getting annihilated online before you even had a chance to fix a mistake? It is completely unnecessary behavior and, to be candid: it feels like shit. Something like copyright infringement – which is definitely a serious matter – very often, can be resolved without legal involvement, expensive fees, or other negative repercussions.

I make mistakes every day. I do my best to correct them as quickly as possible and I move on. I do my best to be honest and I try to assume other people are equally as honest. That may sound naive but it’s a much less stressful way to approach these types of issues vs. getting myself worked up over something that will probably go away without incident and everyone will forget about it.

When people make mistakes – innocent mistakes – the more diplomatic and professional you handle the situation the better YOU and your business will appear.

If you quickly take every available opportunity to publicly disparage someone, (an individual or a company), this will be more damaging to you and your own [business] reputation than the person who made the error in the first place. ESPECIALLY if the issue is resolved quickly and includes an apology.

No one likes a bully

Most people sit behind their computer screens and it is very well known (and proven),  they’ll much more quickly write things they would NEVER have the guts to say in person. Actually, it is far easier to lash out at someone online from behind your computer screen never looking someone in the eye. These folks are commonly called trolls, but I just call it like it is. They are bullies and when we don’t have to look someone in the eyes, it’s all too easy to spew threats, name call and use language that is inappropriate and unprofessional.

I am quite sure that given the opportunity to address a person directly and/or IN PERSON when you find out you may have had your content used without your knowledge or permission (the very act of copyright infringement), a negative situation could be handled much more calmly and never become negative.

What if the person will not respond or correct the error?

This is a fair and reasonable question. Of course, it is the first thing people think and want to know. BUT: Before rushing to judgement about motives of any copyright infringement, and immediately reacting in a negative or defensive way, take a deep breath, pause, follow the “What to do” steps first. Be patient. Wait. Be the bigger person and remain calm.

I know, I know. Waiting is hard, especially if someone might be potentially gaining from posting something they do not own. I get it and I’ve been there too. But at the risk of sounding like a walking cliché, “Patience is a virtue”. When it happened to me and one of my articles was stolen, it was resolved within 2 hours, the content was removed and I received an apology. No harm done. Everyone was happy and I moved on with my life.

The final outcome of a situation like this usually ends well if handled without anger, antagonism or public bullying in an attempt to make someone look bad.

Bullying online in an attempt to get your way or rally followers to gang up on the individual will make you look bad, no matter the outcome. No matter how wrong the infringement may be, negative comments and posts should be avoided at all costs.

Negative behavior is what people will remember, not the individual who will is most likely going to correct the issue, apologize and move on in a calm and professional manner. It doesn’t reflect well on anyone to be reactive.

If you always err on the side of “giving the benefit of the doubt first”, you will no doubt resolve the issue without any negative feelings or reputation damage.

The last resort

There are laws that do protect you. If you are simply not able to resolve the issue privately, and the individual is either unresponsive or refuses to comply, you have the option to file a DMCA violation report on the infringed content, file a violation report with their web host of the infringed content. You can lookup who the website host is and yes, it’s a huge pain in the ass process, but you wouldn’t let someone steal items from your home and let it go without calling the police, right? So, pass the burden over to the host or platform on which the content has been posted.

Finally, if all else fails or you are unable to resolve the issue using all the methods above, it may be time to call an attorney to specializes in IP Law (Intellectual Property law). I am not a litigious person so I would never jump directly into threatening a lawsuit. Yet, we all know there are unethical people in the business world who think they can do what they want without facing consequences.

What is your experience?

Have you ever had your content stolen? Have you ever posted something that didn’t belong to you without receiving permission? We’d love to hear how you handled the issue(s) and what the end results were (if finally resolved).

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