DON’T PANIC: What to Do When Someone Steals Your Work
Not panicking is easier said than done, especially when it comes to something you have poured your heart into, perhaps even spent years creating. Nevertheless, reacting too quickly, without enough prep-work, and, potentially, without expert advice, can cause more harm than good. It may even land you, the wronged party, in hot water.
Luckily, you are one of many creators today who have to work to protect their work against potential copyright infringement, be it accidental, or very much deliberate.
We’ve boiled down the essential steps of what to do if the worst happens and you realise that, for whatever reason, your work has been stolen.
It’s a hard pill to swallow, but it is worthwhile to step back and objectively evaluate what exactly has occurred, and what the best and worst case outcome scenarios look like. Before you engage the party that did the infringing, figure out their goals for using your content. For instance, are they using it for personal or commercial use? Based on that, decide for yourself whether you want to ask for a certain amount of money in recompense or whether it’s worthwhile pursuing legal action… or both, or neither, or something in between.
Screenshots and any other documentation you can collect are your best friends at times like these. A high-resolution image (with the URL included) can speak a thousand words and solidify your case against the guilty party. Include a time-stamp, if possible. In other words, anything that will amount to concrete, irrefutable proof of infringement. Moreover, continue documenting any and all communications pertaining to the infringement, whether they are with the infringer or even your own lawyer. You want a paper trail.
One follow-up possibility (although it probably won’t garner you any money) is sending a takedown notice to the host or whoever manages the websites. In many countries, a takedown notice alone requires the party that has infringed on the copyright to take down the item in question, or at the very least to take some sort of action.
Copyright laws are complicated on a good day, more so when infringement occurs. Laws also vary from country to country. If you have any doubts at all as to how to proceed (and you most likely will!) or even just have questions in general, now would be a great time to reach out for professional guidance. Luckily, there are many copyright protection and monitoring services, (CopyrightsWorld is one), not to mention organisations and lawyers, that are there to help you reach the right conclusions and not over or under-react. At the end of the day, many creators tend to undervalue their work, yet engaging in a lengthy legal battle can have disastrous consequences for you. This is precisely why constant professional monitoring of infringement can be a life-saver. Automating and digitizing this process, as CopyrightsWorld has done, makes it much easier to avoid copyright infringement.
Now comes the trickiest part… making contact with the party you think is stealing your work. Let’s be honest – there are very, very few scenarios in which personal contact with the infringer can go smoothly. Of course, resolving matters peacefully and fairly is never off the table, but there are too many cases of the exact opposite occurring for us to recommend reaching out to the other party yourself.
Not reaching out in person is not the extent of how far you have to remove yourself from the situation, however. You must absolutely 100% refrain from posting anything whatsoever about potential infringement activity on any public medium such as social media.
If you decide to contact the other party after all, make sure you have a clear purpose in your communications that makes it obvious what you want from the other individual: is it money? Licensing? Recognition? If it is money, attach an invoice from other work you have licensed showing approximate costs. However, if you’re unsure about the exact commercial value of your work, don’t “guesstimate”. This will make it difficult later to seek an accurate amount for your work. Avoid the topic of pricing at all until you can ask for a specific number.
Although the famous Oscar Wilde quote “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” is true in some instances, creators like yourself can have their livelihoods destroyed by unauthorized copyright infringement. When your uniqueness is the backbone of your earnings, there is nothing more important than protecting your individuality. At CopyrightsWorld, we get it, and we’re here to be your copyrights watchdog.