Copyright Infringement is Theft. Pure and Simple
It happens to many people and it is frustrating. When a content creator discovers their original writing, images, photography, etc. has been used and posted online without permission, it's a terrible feeling. Worse yet, the content is often claimed as owned by someone else.
This is what we call Copyright Infringement. If someone is making money from using your original work, things become more complicated. Depending on the medium and who stole it, the victim may even panic.
What you do upon discovering copyright infringement has occurred, and how you react when your content has been claimed by another person or business, is just as important as the infringement itself.
I am a victim of copyright infringement. What should I do now?
I will get to the list of things to do shortly but I need to express this much first:
ALWAYS try and 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 you should not do if discover you are the victim of copyright infringement
- Do not rush to judgement before knowing what, why or how it happened. I am cautiously optimistic, some may say naive, but even in my own experience, there is likely and usually an explanation. Copyright infringement CAN happen if the infringer is unaware of the law. You'd be surprised how many people have no idea what content theft is.
- Do not immediately rush to social media platforms and publish public posts or comments about the alleged infringer in an attempt to cyber-bully them. Allow the individual a chance to correct the potential error, or at least explain waht happened.
- Do not make public disparaging comments about the individual before you resolve the issue. This is even more important if you haven’t given the individual an opportunity respond and correct the issue.
- Do not forget that your reputation is important too. Although copyright infringement is never acceptable, there is almost always a resolution available that does not involve causing more damage.
- Do not be a cyber-bully in an attempt to get the result you want. This is never the way to handle business situations, no matter what the situation. The rougher and tougher you are, and the more threats you make, the less likely you are to resolve your issue without damaging their (and your) reputation.
What to do if you discover your content has been stolen
- 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
- Allow the person at least. 24 hours to respond to your inquiry since the internet is worldwide and we are all living in different time zones. No one is online 24 hours a day and it would horrible to wake up to a barrage of emails if you were sleeping and were completely unaware there was any problem.
Things to keep in mind if you are the victim of copyright infringement
No one person is perfect.
That includes you. It's a fact. Although there are people among us who would like you to believe they were the most person infallible individuals on Earth, they are wrong (I write that with absolute confidence).
You too have made mistakes along the way. I write that too, with 100% confidence. Remember the time, maybe not so long ago, 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 can be devastating to a person's reputation. Cyber-bullying is completely unnecessary behavior and, to be candid: it feels like absolute shit.
Something like copyright infringement – a serious legal matter – very often, can be resolved without any legal involvement, expensive fees, and all the other negative repercussions previously mentioned.
I'm admitting I make mistakes every day. I try and I do my best to correct mistakes as quickly as possible, and I try to move on despite my damaged ego. I consider myself a pretty honest and straightforward person. Sadly, assuming every one else is as honest is a little naive. I know. It's a much less stressful way to approach issues like copyright infringement 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 or responds well to a bully
More people than you can even imagine, spend enormous amounts of time sitting behind their computer screens. It is very well known, mots of these people are very quick to 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 a computer screen if you never have to look them in the eye. These are trolls, but I just call it like it is. They are bullies. When we don't have to face a person, it becomes 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 or IN PERSON, the words would sound much different. After discovering your original content has been used without your knowledge or permission (the very definition of copyright infringement), negative situations could be handled much more calmly and never become negative if the individuals involved were able to communicate in a more civil way.
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.
What if the person will not respond or correct the error?
This is a fair and reasonable question. This is the first thing people think about and want to know. BUT… Before you rush to judgement about motives about any form of copyright infringement by immediately reacting in a negative or defensive way, take a deep breath. Pause. Follow the “What to do” steps first. Be patient. Wait.
This is hard to do in the heat of the moment but you have to be the bigger person. Remain calm. Again, be patient. Take a walk if you need to but jumping all over there situation is not going to resolve it any faster.
I know, I know. Waiting is hard, especially if someone is potentially profiting from your original content. I understand, and I’ve been there, too. I have been the victim of copyright infringement and I was LIVID.
When it happened to me, one of my originally written and published articles was copied word for word on someone else's website. Even the title was the same. I was stunned. I had published my article at least 2 years before it happened and had all the backup to prove it but still, I was really shocked.
The best part and resolution
The entire situation was resolved within 2 hours, the infringed content was removed and I received an apology. No harm done. Everyone was happy and I moved on with my life.
The owner of the website explained the person hired to write blog posts guaranteed that the blog posts were original. However it turned out this blog post writer found one of my most popular posts, copied the entire piece word for word and posted it on the other website.
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.
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).