Copyright infringement is the reproduction, performance, broadcasting or translation of intellectual property without the permission of the individual licensed to handle the material. In recent years, the most common type of copyright infringement targets material posted on the internet.
The Internet has become the new mass medium and, as such, it is invaluable for businesses and social media. However, websites are more vulnerable than other types of works that are subject to copyright protection. Website information can easily be misappropriated for profit by a third party who is not authorized by the author.
Copyright infringement will lead to both criminal and civil penalties in the U.S. However, when it is committed outside the U.S. it can be difficult to enforce such penalties.
What If My Materials Online Are Replicated by Someone outside the U.S.?
Unfortunately, there are few remedies if this occurs. U.S. copyright laws do not extend outside of the U.S. Therefore, you cannot rely on these laws to protect you from an infringer in a foreign country. Here are a few steps that you can take:
1) Obtain your Certificate of Registration from the U.S. Copyright office.
2) Determine if the ISP hosting the site is a U.S. corporation.
If this is the case, then you should contact the Internet Service Provider (ISP) with proof that your copyrighted material is being hosted on a site without your permission. ISP’s are likely to remove the copyrighted materials from their servers to avoid possible liability.
3) Send a cease and desist letter to the Infringer. The letter should include the following:
- Notice to the infringer that your work is copyrighted
- Demand that they cease and desist from using your work
- Demand lost profits and any profits made by the infringer from your work
- Give the infringer a deadline to comply with your demands
- Be unambiguous that you will take legal action if they do not comply
4) Initiate a Lawsuit
If the cease and desist letter is ignored, prepare to start legal action in the foreign country. There are agreements between countries, including treaties and international committees, which are dedicated to this issue. Despite these agreements, it is often unclear which country’s law applies (i.e. country where the infringer resides v. the country in which the server is located.) This confusing subject matter is called “conflict of laws.”
Do I Need Legal Assistance?
An experienced intellectual property attorney will be able to advise you on how you can most effectively deal with a copyright infringer from a foreign country. Your cease and desist letter, as well as any communication with an ISP, will be more effective if sent by an attorney. As discussed above, there are many complex issues including conflict of laws. An experienced copyright lawyer will be able to educate you about your rights and determine your best options for resolving your copyright infringement issues.