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Someone violated my business's copyright. What do I do?

As a small business owner, your business is special to you. You do your best to care for it and protect it at all costs. You invest so much of yourself and your finances into its success. So when someone infringes on your copyright, it can feel personal.

Small businesses may feel at a disadvantage in these cases, especially if the perpetrator is a larger corporation with more money and assets. What do you do if your copyright is infringed upon?

What is protected under copyright law?

Copyright is provided to the authors of “original works of authorship” that are fixed in a tangible form of expression. Examples of copyrightable works are:

  • Literary works
  • Musical works, including any accompanying words
  • Dramatic works, including any accompanying music
  • Pantomimes and choreographic works
  • Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • Pictorial, graphic and sculptural works
  • Sound recordings, which are works that result from the fixation of a series of musical, spoken or other sounds
  • Architectural works

If you are the creator of the work – for instance, if you designed your company’s logo or write the jingle for your first commercial – your copyright has existed automatically from the moment the original work is fixed.

Registration of copyrights is voluntary, but it is still recommended to register your copyright to have the facts of the copyright on public record and a certificate of registration. This is especially helpful to have if someone infringes on that copyright in the future, as it is a lot easier to prove.

Building a legal case

Once you have confirmed someone infringed on your copyright, you should consider contacting a business law attorney who understands the complexities of copyright infringement. These professionals can help establish and prove copyright, even if it wasn’t registered.

They can build a legal case that forces the guilty party to pay civil damages to you, which can be a relief considering how valuable your copyright is to your small business. The court may prohibit the individual or company who infringed on your copyright from further using that material without your expressed content, or to destroy it. Even if someone was unaware they were infringing on your copyright, it is typically not an acceptable defense.

If you think someone has infringed on your copyright, seek legal counsel who can work with you on defending your business’s copyright, which is a valuable asset worth protecting.

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