What can I do if someone is trying to use my copyrighted work without permission?
When someone reproduces your work without your permission, it can be very frustrating. If you suspect someone might be infringing on your work, you should do a bit of homework by determining if the use of your work actually violates copyright law or not.
Imagine that you spoke to someone about writing a screenplay about a spy who needs to go to therapy while undercover, and then that person writes a screenplay about a spy who needs to go to therapy. At first glance, you might think that that person has stolen your idea, thus infringing on your copyright. That’s not accurate, though. Since when you spoke to this person about your idea, it wasn’t a fixed expression, it was still only an idea. Ideas aren’t protected by copyright law.
2. Next, you should determine whether you actually own the rights to the work.
You must also consider whether you gave a license to someone to use your work. This license could take the form of a written contract, or it could just be oral agreement granting them permission. Either way, what looks like an infringement could actually be an authorized use. It could even just be a misunderstanding by someone who interpreted the scope of the permission they received more broadly than you did when you gave it.
3. Even though the person has used your work, they might have a successful fair use defense. This means that their use of your work is not illegal.
While this isn’t directly related to the law, if you’re bothered by another’s non-infringing use, you can contact that person to let her know why you’re bothered and work out a solution without actually invoking the law. Besides, formal legal procedures and threats often complicate simple problems that can be solved through communication.
Keep in mind that the law does allow anyone to reuse, adapt, quote, criticize portions of your work without your permission as long as they adhere to the guidelines of fair use
, even if you object to the way that person has re-appropriated your material, and even if they don’t give you credit for it
. Before going forward with an infringement claim and hiring a lawyer to analyze your situation, it would be highly beneficial to educate yourself on the basics of fair use and whether it may apply to your situation.
If you believe someone has copied your work in an unauthorized way and would like to know your best course of action, feel free to contact New Media Rights via our contact form to find out whether you qualify for free or reduced fee legal services. We also offer competitive full fee legal services on a selective basis. For more information on the services we provide click here.
Frequently asked questions about how to react if you believe someone is infringing your copyright