They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but when your livelihood is your creative work that “flattery” can feel a lot like theft. And just like with any other form of theft, you can protect yourself.
If somebody has imitated your copyrighted music, book, artwork or computer program, then you may be able to seek justice in federal court. It’s important to note the difference between infringing behavior and fair usage of your work prior to litigation.
Is this infringement?
Before seeking legal consultation or aid, there are a few ways to determine if copyright infringement has been committed. For starters, if someone’s work is a direct copy of your original piece or if it’s substantially similar, then you probably have a case.
Some examples of copyright infringement include:
- Downloading and spreading music files without copyright owner permission
- Posting a published photo without asking or crediting the original photographer
- Uploading a large portion of a video or film to an app or site
Some common defenses against copyright infringement include:
- Fair use: The work in question could fall under fair use if it includes a transformed version of the original work or if it’s used for nonprofit or educational reasons
- Independent creation: The creator of the work in question may admit they didn’t refer to or previously acknowledge the copyrighted work
- First sale: Someone who has obtained a legally produced original artwork can typically resell it if they no longer want it
How can I defend my work?
The first step to defending your work is by filing for copyright protection. While taking measures to protect business or family ideas, it’s worth noting that copyright doesn’t last forever. Typically, copyright expires 70 years after an author’s life.
Don’t jump to conclusions. Instead, you should take notes, screenshots or record any proof of infringement before asking the potential infringer to take down or stop spreading the work in question. Collecting proof will help you in court.
Imitation is not flattery if you or your business is losing out on sales.