With more blogs than ever on the internet, and social media becoming increasingly popular, there's a widespread belief that, if something is on the internet, it is automatically free to use. This is a mistaken presumption, and it is one that can prove costly. If your company has published content online, that content is protected by copyright laws. Here's what your corporate intellectual property lawyer wants you to know about enforcing that copyright if someone has stolen your company's online content.
Verify The Violation
The first thing you should do is talk with your local corporate attorney about the situation. This is an essential first step to confirm that the incident is, in fact, a copyright violation. The fair use laws permit some use of online content, but that use must meet specific requirements, such as for news reporting or for journalistic criticism.
Since there are some permitted uses, it's important that you consult with an attorney before you take any action. This helps to ensure that your company doesn't try to pursue legal action when the use was legally permissible.
Start With A Direct Request
Sometimes, people use your copyrighted content without realizing that it's legally protected, or because they don't believe that you will ever discover or address the action. In many of those situations, direct contact from you, or from your intellectual property attorney, will resolve the problem.
Check the domain registrations to find out who owns the domain. If the domain registration is private, you can contact the registrar directly with your claim of copyright infringement and your request to delete the content. Otherwise, send the communication directly to the owner of the site. In some cases, you can also send a copy to the domain's web host. You can trace back the web host from the domain's name servers, then send a copy of the request to the web host as well. Many times, domain registrars and web hosts are proactive about addressing issues like these.
Follow With A Legal Demand
If you've sent a direct request on company letterhead that didn't result in the removal of the content, the next step you can take is to have your corporate attorney send a cease-and-desist notice. Cease-and-desist notices are legal demands for the removal of the content on the grounds of intellectual property violations. These are the final notices before a court's resolution is requested.
The cease-and-desist, sometimes also called a DMCA take-down notice, should be sent to the site owner, the domain registrar, and the hosting company, or as many of these as you can identify. In most cases, a cease-and-desist will result in a resolution within a few days.
For more information, contact a corporate lawyer.