California Copyright Attorney
Mandour & Associates, APC is a California copyright law firm with offices in Los Angeles‚ Orange County‚ and San Diego. We also assist businesses with all types of intellectual property issues such as those relating to copyrights, trademarks and patents. If you have an issue to discuss with a copyright attorney, please contact us today.
Understanding copyright registration, infringement and litigation is key in protecting your valuable intellectual property. If your copyright is important to you or your company, getting it registered is the first step toward protecting your property. If you are ever threatened with a copyright infringement case, the steps you’ve taken to get your copyright registered will likely be instrumental for your case.
In this summary learn how to safeguard much of your work though registration with the U.S. Copyright Office and what you can do when another individual or business entity tries to steal the fruits of your labor.
Copyright protection is important for creative works like websites, books, artwork, photos, software, and movies. With the Internet becoming more popular as a place to display or sell materials, there are many opportunities not just for sale but also for copyright infringement. In order to obtain copyright protection, your work must meet three key elements:
- You must have produced a work of authorship
- The work must be original
- It must be fixed to a tangible medium
While you don’t need to register your copyright directly with the U.S. Copyright Office in order to exercise intellectual property rights over it, you do need to register your work before any copyright litigation to enforce your rights.
Registering your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office has critical advantages, including:
- You receive a presumption that you are the owner and that the facts included in your certificate of registration are correct
- For post-registration infringements, you may be entitled to statutory damages and attorneys’ fees
- You may be able to request that U.S. Customs block any infringing goods from entering the United States via import
Registration of your copyright is a forward-thinking action that may deter infringement of your copyright from ever occurring. If an infringement does occur, registration will very likely allow you to end the infringement more quickly. Under the Copyright Act of 1976, only a copyright owner can:
- Copy the original work in reproductions
- Create derivatives drawn from the original
- Disseminate copies to the public
- Perform or display the work in a public fashion
Filing a copyright application is a deceptively simple process which can be done online. The only problem is that it often takes years of experience to know how to file a copyright application correctly, and if it is not filed correctly, the resulting registration may do more harm than good in the event of an infringement. Some basics in filing a copyright application include:
- The right application form must be used based on your submission type, which is broken down by the nature of the work itself.
- Each section of the copyright application must be completed correctly for the proper rights to be acquired. It is very common for U.S. Copyright Applications to be completed incorrectly and it is almost a certainty that the application will have an error if it was filed without the assistance of a copyright attorney.
- Standard government filing fees must be submitted at the time of filing in addition to the correct deposit specimen.
The sooner you obtain copyright registration, the easier it will be to protect your rights in the future. Failing to get proper registration completed could entitle another person to gain the legal rights or even to argue that their activity is not infringing on your rights. Since registration should be completed in an accurate and timely fashion, it is advisable to retain a copyright lawyer to assist you.
Copyright Infringement Lawyers in California
With the continued proliferation of the Internet, creators face greater risks than ever before. When a third party exercises the exclusive rights of a copyright owner, it is likely that copyright infringement has occurred. If an infringement has occurred, the first step is often sending a cease and desist letter. A cease and desist letter sets out the activity that is considered to be infringing and why, and requests that the infringing activity cease by a certain date. If the infringing activity is minor or has not yet caused much damage to the copyright owner, the matter may begin and end with a cease and desist letter and an apologetic response.
If a copyright infringement issue persists, often a key determining factor is whether or not the newly created work is “substantially similar” to the original. Whether substantial similarity exists is a question for the trier of fact such as a judge or jury.
Another common defense to copyright infringement claims is fair use. Some common examples of fair use include teaching, news reporting, commenting, research, or criticism. Courts must evaluate the nature of the copyrighted creation, the purpose and character of the work such as whether it is commercial in nature, the volume of what was taken, and the impact on the market.
When an infringement is not minor or if significant damages have occurred, quickly dropping the matter might not be an option. If an agreement cannot be reached regarding compensation, the next step may be filing a lawsuit in federal court.
Copyright Litigation Attorneys in California
Copyright infringement is a federal issue, so a copyright lawsuit must be filed in federal court. Federal courts in the state of California typically sees more copyright lawsuits filed than other states partly due to the sheer number of people in the state but also because Los Angeles has traditionally been a center of copyright creation including movies and TV.
Here is a brief chronology of what to expect when a copyright lawsuit is filed:
- Complaint filed: The first step in any lawsuit is the filing of a complaint. After service of the complaint, the defendant will have 21 days to file an answer.
- Discovery: After a meeting of counsel, typically the discovery period begins. During this time both parties may issue discovery requests including interrogatories, requests for admission, document requests and deposition notices.
- Motions: After discovery, the parties can file motions for summary judgment.
- Trial: Though exceedingly rare, if the case remains in dispute after motions the case may go to trial. Trials typically last 3-5 days which allows both sides to fully present their case.
When it comes to monetary damages, the specifics of the infringing actions play are large part in the actual award. In instances where actual damages can be proven, the damages at issue in a case may be very straightforward. When actual damages are not clear or are difficult to prove, a plaintiff may seek statutory damages.
Statutory damages are a monetary award that the copyright owner may choose to receive instead of actual damages. The amounts recovered per infringed work typically range from $750 to $30,000. Statutory damages are only available when the work at issue was registered with the copyright office.
Who Pays Attorneys’ Fees If Willful Infringement Has Occurred?
When a person or organization knowingly used copyright materials to profit, the courts will consider this action to be intentional and willful. It is possible to recover larger amounts in these lawsuits. If it is determined that a copyright infringement was willful, statutory damages can be increased to $150,000.
Alternatively, if an offender can prove that he or she did not understand that a violation would occur, then the court might lower the statutory damages down to $200 and consider it an innocent infringement.
Beyond statutory damages, when a copyright is registered in a timely manner, the plaintiff may also be entitled to recover reasonable attorneys’ fees from the defendant. Exposure to an award of attorney’s fees can be a significant consideration in a copyright lawsuit. If a case proceeds through discovery and into motions or trial, the attorney’s fees at issue may begin to trump the actual or statutory damages available. As such, whenever an attorney’s fees award is in play the party potentially liable must be very careful to present a fair settlement offer including a reasonable amount to cover the plaintiff’s damages. Regardless of fault in the underlying case, both a plaintiff and defendant must conduct themselves reasonably in the litigation or otherwise an attorneys fees award could issue to either party.
Mandour & Associates – California Copyright Lawyers
Failing to properly register and defend your copyright will undoubtedly decrease the value of your work and increase its unlawful distribution.
If you are seeking copyright protection, if your rights are being infringed upon, or if you’re accused of infringement, you should immediately seek the assistance of a copyright attorney. Our copyright attorneys are well versed in all nuances of copyright law and we are ready to aggressively pursue your legal rights.
If you’re in need of a copyright attorney or if you have a copyright related question about your rights, please contact us today.