Copyright law is one of the most important and relevant aspects of the legal system when it comes to doing business online. Most webmasters will at some stage encounter copyright law problems which must be addressed, whether that's an alleged violation of someone else's rights on their part, or someone else is violating their rights on another website or in an offline publication. Generally speaking, the principles behind copyright law are straightforward, however understanding how they work in practice is critical to ensure success in any legal claim.
At a general level, original works are the property of their creator or anyone subsequently licensed to use, reproduce or modify those works by the creator. The same is true online as it is in the publishing world - the author of content owns that content, unless some other arrangements have been made with other parties. That then gives rise to potential legal claims in circumstances where those rights have been unlawfully breached, such as content being used against advertising that doesn't belong to the publisher, or unauthorised reproduction of a particular part of work elsewhere than where permitted.
Commonly, approaching copyright problems is a straightforward issue. As the legal aggressor, it's best to approach a violation firstly with an email notifying the publisher of the breach and asking for removal of offending content. This usually works and is the most reasonable way to go about achieving your end goal - to protect your lawful rights over that content. If that proves ineffectual, it may be wise to opt for a more formal approach. An attorney will be able to write legal letters for around $200-$500, depending on how well respected they are and how experienced they are within the profession. This should help sort out any remaining issues with copyright infringement, and prompt the other party to deal with offending content.
Also, under US law, it's possible to serve what is known as a 'takedown notice' under recent copyright legislation. In a prescribed form, the takedown notice can be served on the hosting company of the offending publisher, and content so offending copyright must be removed in response to the presentation of the notice. If all else fails, there are legal remedies through the courts which can provide you with damages and expenses in respect of the abuse of your proprietary rights.
On the other side of the fence, it's best to deal with copyright disputes by simply removing content that appears to be owned by someone else. This is the quickest and most sure fire way of preventing the situation from escalating. While only 3% of legal disputes ever end up in court, it's still nonetheless worthwhile to ensure you're fully covered by simply removing any content that is alleged to be breaching another's rights.
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