Los Angeles Copyright Lawyer
Copyright is an intellectual property right granted to authors of original works. These works can include – but aren’t necessarily limited to – books, paintings, plays, movies, computer programs and websites.
Even with this protection afforded by the U.S. Copyright Office, there are still millions of Americans who commit copyright infringement every year. If your original works are being infringed upon, it’s important to speak with a copyright attorney immediately.
Copyright Registration for Los Angeles Businesses
Getting copyright protection is a fairly simple process. In fact, your works are copyright protected the moment they’re created and available in a tangible form. This includes both paper, websites, e-readers and other media. It’s worth noting, though, that this level of copyright doesn’t afford you all the protections available.
There are many benefits of Copyright Registration including:
- Registration creates a public record of copyright and deters violators.
- Your copyright must be registered in order to bring a copyright infringement lawsuit.
- A copyright registration creates a prima facie presumption that you own the work.
- Statutory damages and attorney fees are possible after registration.
How to Register a Copyright
Copyright registration is a deceptively simple process. You can simply complete an application, include a copy of your work and file the application with the Library of Congress with the applicable fee. The office receives about 2,400 submissions every day, so it may take 9 months until you hear anything back after filing the copyright application.
Unfortunately, not everything is as easy as it seems. The U.S. Copyright Office may reject your request. This could occur for a variety of reasons, but it’s typically due to mistakes in the application or an incorrect deposit specimen. Or worse yet, your application could be accepted but it could be wrong in some way that could render it valueless in the event of an infringement. Thus it is very important to file the copyright application correctly the first time.
Steps After Copyright Registration
Once you’ve successfully copyrighted your original work, you should actively police infringements in an effort to protect it. Just as in other cases of intellectual property infringement, it’s typically up to the copyright owner to police violations of their work.
Unfortunately, this can be a continuous endeavor. The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles had nearly 4,500 copyright infringement lawsuits filed in its jurisdiction alone between 2009 and 2016. Your work is always at risk of being infringed upon, but there are ways to protect yourself.
Copyright Infringement Lawyers in Los Angeles
Copyright infringement occurs when someone exploits the creative works of others without permission. “Exploitation” in this sense refers to infringing upon the exclusive rights – such as the right to distribute, reproduce, perform or display – that are granted to the copyright holder.
These violations could include anything from copying someone’s website to showing a movie in public without first getting permission. Every instance of alleged copyright infringement is different, so it’s best to have a copyright attorney on your side whether you’re a victim or being accused of a copyright violation.
Identifying Copyright Infringement
Every copyright owner, and anyone accused of infringement, should realize that an exact duplicate isn’t necessary to constitute a copyright violation. If substantial similarity exists between an alleged infringement and the source material, a court will likely find that wrongdoing has taken place.
Fortunately, there are some very simple ways to monitor copyright infringement. Here are four of the most commonly used methods.
- Google text search: By choosing a distinct sentence from your work, you can use quotation marks on search engines to see if anyone has copied your work verbatim. You can also set up Google Alerts to alert you if this occurs.
- Google Image Search: Software code and written word aren’t the only things you can search on Google. Using reverse image search lets you find out if anyone online is using your copyrighted photos or artwork.
- Third-party research: A copyright infringement attorney or third-party service can help keep track of potential violations.
- Software tools: Although software tools essentially only automate the processes you can do yourself, they may still make your life easier. Copyscape will check your entire website for plagiarism and can provide continuous monitoring of your webpages.
Targeting Indirect Infringement
Online peer-to-peer systems certainly have their benefits, but they have also allowed the widespread facilitation of copyright infringement. This means that, if you find your creative works being downloaded online – even if the website isn’t directly hosting the content itself – they may still be liable for copyright infringement.
Is It Too Late to Copyright?
You already know that you need to register a copyright if you’re going to take an infringement case to court. This leaves many to question whether they have a court case when they haven’t registered. The simple answer is “yes and no.”
If you fail to register your copyright, you won’t be able to receive damages in a court of law. Fortunately, infringements that happen prior to registration aren’t any less illegal. This means that, even after a violation has occurred, you can still file a copyright application and gain rights under the law.
Statutory damages and the ability to recover attorney’s fees could be limited when filing late copyright applications. Speak with your copyright infringement lawyer about this.
Responding to Copyright Infringement
If someone has infringed upon your copyrighted work – or you’ve been accused of infringing – the length of the legal process can vary dependent on a variety of circumstances. In many cases, all that’s required is having a cease and desist letter sent. When the infringement is honestly accidental, or the damages are minimal, this is often the end of the issue.
There are instances, however, when it’s only right that a copyright holder be reimbursed for any damages. This is especially the case if the copyright owner’s ability to profit was hindered. If an agreement cannot be reached regarding compensation – or the cease and desist letter is ignored – copyright litigation is the next step.
Copyright Litigation Attorneys in LA
Settling a case outside of court can be appealing at times – even if you’re not fully compensated for your copyrighted works. It’s important to note, though, that some violations simply cannot be overlooked, or at times damages must be paid.
When cease and desist letters or appeals for fair compensation don’t work out, you’ll need to file a lawsuit in federal court. This will start a process that begins with the filing of a complaint. Within 21 days of service of the complaint, the defendant must file a response. Thereafter the parties can serve discovery requests such as interrogatories, requests for admission, document requests, and a notice of deposition.
Copyright Infringement Defenses
Even a case of copyright infringement that seems glaringly obvious doesn’t guarantee a certain outcome. This is because there are several defenses to copyright infringement. If the judge finds that even one of these scenarios applies, the whole case could be thrown out.
- Lack of Substantial Similarity: If the works are not substantially similar there likely is no infringement.
- Independently created: This requires that a work not be copied from the original.
- Statute of limitations: There is a three-year statute of limitations on copyright infringement, but keep in mind that there are exceptions to this general rule.
- Fair use doctrine: Certain uses of copyrighted material are allowed under the fair use doctrine. There are complexities to this rule, so getting legal assistance to understand the doctrine is best.
- Licensed use: If the use was under a license, there may be no infringement.
- Innocent infringement: A case or damages can be limited if the infringing party didn’t know that a certain work was copyright protected.
Copyright Infringement Penalties
The penalties for copyright infringement will vary greatly by case. If the court sides with the complainant, an injunction may be issued preventing further infringement of the copyrighted material. Failure to follow the court’s order can result in criminal charges of contempt.
Individuals found at fault for copyright infringement may also be ordered to pay actual damages. In many cases, though, actual damages may be hard to calculate for copyrighted works. Because of this, the courts may instead issue statutory damages which typically range from $750 to $30,000 per infringement. In cases of willful infringement, the defendant could be held liable for up to $150,000 per infringed work.
Attorneys fees and court costs can be added in any situation. It’s also worth noting that a plaintiff could face repercussions as well. If a copyright case is brought in bad faith or is considered “frivolous or objectively unreasonable,” the court may award fees to the defendant. The lesson behind this is that it’s important to seek legal help from an experienced copyright attorney before taking any action on an infringement.
Mandour & Associates – Los Angeles Copyright Lawyers
If you have an issue related to copyright, you should speak to a Los Angeles copyright lawyer as soon as possible. We have extensive experience in the area of copyright law including litigation and we look forward to assisting you.
Please contact us today if you need assistance with a copyright issue.