I think someone infringed upon or used my copyrighted material. What should I do now?
When someone infringes upon or uses your copyrighted work without your consent, the first thing you want to is assess the registration status of the copyrighted work. This is important for two primary reasons as follows:
First, you cannot bring a lawsuit for copyright infringement until the copyrighted work is registered with the United States Copyright Office. At minimum, you need to have applied for a copyright registration. Fortunately, copyright registrations are relatively easy to obtain and generally considered a “rubber stamp” as long as you fill out the proper form and pay the registration fee.
Second, assessing the timeliness of the copyright registration is important because a timely registration after the copyrighted work’s creation may entitle you, as the copyright owner, to additional favorable remedies, e.g., statutory damages and attorney’s fees, if the owner needs to sue a party for infringement.
Moreover, once you have evaluated the registration status of your copyrighted work, you will want to assess the defendant’s copy against your copyrighted work. The objective is to determine whether the copied work is “substantially similar” to your copyrighted work. This is necessary to prove a case for copyright infringement.
Once you have evaluated the registration status of your work and the substantial similarity with the infringing copy, you will need to determine with your attorney whether to send out a demand letter or whether it is too late for a demand and filing a lawsuit is required.
It is important to note that all lawsuits for copyright infringement must be filed in federal court because the United States District Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over copyright cases under Chapter 17 of the United States Code. Therefore, when hiring a lawyer, it is important to for you to look for a lawyer with experience and competency in federal-court practice to handle your copyright case.