Don’t Panic! How to Respond to a Copyright Infringement Notice

Business man with copyright infringement notice letter
Posted on Whether an original work is written, digitized, or presented as any tangible material, a copyright will protect it once it’s introduced and made available to the public. The U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 prevents individuals or entities from using copyrighted material and violating copyright laws. Still, copyright infringement can be committed, whether intended or not. So, what do you do if your business receives a copyright infringement notice? Here’s how to respond to this warning and avoid getting another one.

What Should You Do If You Get a Copyright Infringement Notice?

First, don’t ignore the notice. Pretending the concern doesn’t exist in the hopes that it will disappear is unethical and could complicate the situation further. Typically, the copyright holder will ask you to “cease and desist” or stop using their work. It may involve removing the copyrighted material from the platform it’s on or paying the copyright holder a minimal fee for legal use. But before you respond to the warning, read it carefully. Sometimes, a potentially false claim is behind the notice. If any of the situations below apply, make your case to the copyright owner.
  • Your business has a license or receipt connected to the copyrighted work.
  • Fair use covers the material in question.
  • The work is in the public domain.
Otherwise, it would be best if you stopped using the material.

Additional Steps to Take

If you receive a justifiable notice, locate the material and its source. You can take this step easily if the work is in an accessible location, like your website. After locating the work, you can then determine whether you’ve infringed its copyright and how. Copyright holders can claim infringement for various reasons, which we’ll discuss later in this article. Finally, wait to respond when you have all your facts and pertinent information in order. Like any legal dispute, the copyright owner (or any authority) can and will use your statement against you. Ensure you fully understand the notice, and contact your lawyers if the copyright holder needs you to fulfill other conditions.

Why Do Entities Receive a Copyright Infringement Notice?

An individual or business can violate copyright laws in the following ways.
  • Using another’s copyrighted images on a website or another medium
  • Using copyrighted audio
  • Modifying images and using these assets on their websites
  • Producing products with copyrighted pictures or words
  • Posting videos with copyrighted music, video, or photos
  • Sharing full movies or TV programs
  • Sharing music
  • Declaring “no copyright infringement intended” when using copyrighted works
These actions can lead to you receiving an infringement notice.

How Can You Avoid Copyright Infringement?

If you’re concerned about avoiding copyright infringement, here are several steps you can take.

Understand What Copyright Laws Protect

People associate copyright laws with trademarks, patents, and licenses. All three fall under intellectual property (IP), but one can easily acquire and breach copyrights. To fully understand this distinction, consider learning about the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 and the Berne Convention regulations.

Avoid Using Copyrighted Material

If you want to use a copyrighted work, you must first ask the creator or copyright holder for their permission. Contact the individual to discuss whether you can use the material and, if possible, reach an agreement. With the latter, we suggest putting any arrangements, such as subsequent fees and how the material will be used, down in writing.

Review & Duplicate Licensing Agreements

License agreements cover works from stock agencies, like the photos on Getty Images or Shutterstock. These documents discuss the terms and restrictions applicable to the material. Hence, reviewing and storing copies of license agreements is crucial in preventing copyright infringement.

Formulate an Intellectual Property Policy

An IP policy contains guidelines that employees must follow when using company or third-party IPs. It may include the following sections:
  • Purpose – Whenever employees read your IP policy, they should understand why intellectual property is important to your business. This section of your policy covers areas such as distinguishing company IP.
  • Strategic Alignment – To create this portion of your IP policy, you’ll need help from everyone within your company, including those working with intellectual property.
  • Scope – Some areas your IP policy can focus on include:
    • Technology development and patent rights
    • Branding and trademark rights
    • Patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, and other confidential or protected assets
    • Policies or regulations related to your IP policy
    • The specific location(s) where your policy applies
  • Administration – This section should mention the people formulating, managing, revising, and enforcing your IP policy and, if possible, handling IP-related tasks.
  • Terms & Definitions – An appendix or glossary of commonly used terms can be a helpful addition to your IP policy. Your employees can use this section to understand and identify IP-related actions.

Seek Legal Advice

Copyright laws are complicated to navigate. But without extensive knowledge of intellectual property, issues may emerge. Consider consulting a lawyer to know how to avoid copyright infringement and ensure compliance with intellectual property regulations.

Act on a Copyright Infringement Notice with Legal Expertise

Copyright laws help people and entities protect their hard work — writings, artwork, music, and more. An infringement notice emphasizes this protection and ignoring it could lead to a legal dispute. Thus, it’s best to address a warning like this with professionals at your side. Does your business need help handling legal matters? The NCH team is ready to work with you. Schedule an appointment with our business law experts today, or gain more insights from our blog. Contact us today and go from business idea to open for business. Click HERE to get started

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