Receiving a copyright infringement claim can be worrying
But the key is to not panic, assess the claim and know what to do next.
Words by Dr Martin Douglas Hendry
Copyright Infringement can be a serious legal issue for those who receive a claim, as dealing with a protracted dispute can be a drain on both time and financial resources.
Yet, any business that produces creative outputs may be at risk of receiving a claim, should they have made use of existing copyright work inadvertantly or otherwise.
This blog will outline the steps to take to limit the impact of a copyright infringement claim being made against you.
With the help of this blog, you'll learn how to appeal a copyright infringement claim and win in court. Contact our team today for more information on copyright Infringement and what we can do for you!
Why are we best placed to help?
Virtuoso Legal is an intellectual property specialist law firm, established in 2007 that help businesses with the registration, growth and protection of intellectual property.
In doing so, Virtuoso Legal have defended (and enforced) thousands of copyright infringement cases on behalf of their clients - in each case, maximising their client's benefit through elite copyright experience and expertise.
As such, the members of the firm are able to quickly assess the strength of a legal argument and assert the truth and severity of a copyright claim.
What is copyright?
Copyright is a legal right that gives creators of original works exclusive control over how their work is used and distributed. This includes the right to reproduce, perform, display, and create derivative works based on the original.
Copyright protection is available for a wide variety of works, including books, music, movies, and sculptures. In the UK, copyright law is governed by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988.
Copyright law is designed to promote creativity by providing financial incentives for creators to produce original works. Without copyright protection, creators would be less likely to create new works, as they would not be able to profit from their creations.
Copyright law strikes a balance between the interests of creators and the public by allowing creators to control how their work is used while also providing the public with limited access to copyrighted works.
In the UK, copyright protection is automatic and occurs at the point an original work is produced. Notably, in other countries there is sometimes a requirement to register copyright work to achieve more meaningful protection.
Once a work is copyrighted, the copyright owner has the exclusive right to control how the work is used. This includes the right to reproduce, perform, display, and create derivative works based on the original.
The copyright owner can also authorize others to use the work in certain ways. For example, a copyright owner may grant a licence to someone to reproduce a copyrighted work.
Copyright protection is not indefinite. In the UK, copyright protection typically lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. After that time, the work enters the public domain and can be used by anyone without permission from the copyright owner.
What is copyright infringement?
Copyright infringement is the unauthorized use of copyrighted material in a way that violates one of the copyright owner's exclusive rights, such as the right to reproduce or perform the copyrighted work, or to make derivative works.
In the UK, copyright infringement is a civil matter, and the copyright owner can sue the infringer in court to recover damages and possibly obtain an injunction to stop the infringing activity. If the infringement is also a criminal offence (eg. part of a counterfeiting offence), the copyright owner can report it to the police, who may then investigate and prosecute the infringer.
Under UK law, it is not a defence to claim that you did not know that the work was copyrighted, or that you thought you had the copyright owner's permission to use the work. Even if you are not sued or prosecuted for copyright infringement, you may still be liable for damages if the copyright owner can prove that you infringed their copyright.
As a result, for creative businesses that produce many new works, it is important to be prepared to address a copyright infringement claim should you receive one.
What to do if you receive a copyright infringement claim
If you have received a copyright infringement claim from a rights holder it is important to take the following steps.
- Do not panic - Receiving a legal letter can often be a very intense experience. But remember a legal letter is a piece of paper only as powerful as the legal arguments it makes. If its assessment of the law or the facts are incorrect it may have no legal basis. Take your time to review it calmly, and make sure that you are assessing it with a detached perspective. Clues to look for are the name of the legal entity it has been received from and the detail included in the claim.
- Do not contact the other side - Oftentimes a pre-action copyright claim will include a deadline and set of undertakings for you to complete before legal action is threatened to take place. This may sometimes be a tactic to put you under pressure and agree to legally binding agreements which you may not be liable for. This often happens, in particular, when a legal rights representative seeks to assert copyright in a "blanket" or indiscriminatory way.
- Immediately take down the alleged infringing material - Whether or not you have infringed copyright, whilst there is a dispute it is often prudent to "take down" or remove from public access the contested material. This demonstrates that you are taking the claim seriously as well as limiiting damage to the otherside should you be infringing them. As such, this will reduce your exposure to damages later down the line.
- Do not attempt to profit from the alleged infringing material - As above, profiting from material that is alleged to infringe copyright may put you at risk of losing that profit in a claim. It is best practice to remove from sale any alleged infringing material until the claim has been resolved.
- Contact an intellectual property solicitor to assess the accuracy and severity of the claim - contacting a solicitor will help you assess the claim and the liability. This can range from dismissing the claim as being entirely incorrect, mitigating the claim's severity (and thus the liability) or undertaking a damage limitation exercise to minimise financial exposure to the claim. It is best to engage with a specialist to acheive this, as a generalist will not be as aware or experienced as it relates to copyright claims in particular.
- Following a review of the claim being made against you, engage with the other side via your legal team - as above, the next step is to have your legal team contact the other side to resolve the issue. Typically this involved a detailed reply to the initial particulars of claim and a counter-offer, settlement or dismissal of the claim. Depending on the other side's response this may draw the claim to a close. It can however lead to a mediation or even trial - however, instructing a specialist will ensure that you are keely aware of your prospects should the claim rumble on. As such, you will be in the best position to act in the most optimal commercial manner at each given juncture.
If you need assistance in assessing a copyright infringement claim and responding appropriately - contact our team by clicking the button below.
Receiving a copyright infringement claim can be scary, and in the heat of the moment it can be easy to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
But remember a legal letter is just a piece of paper - it is the strength of the legal arguments that have been made on the document that matter.
Taking your time to assess the claim and limit the prospective damage will only put you in a better position.
Mistakes happen! Just do what you can to make sure that one mistake doesn't lead to another.
Contact our team today to speak to a team member about how we can help you turn your ideas into best-in-class assets.
Disclaimer: This FAQ should not be construed as legal advice on any specific facts. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only. You are urged to consult your own solicitor on any specific legal questions you may have.