Copyright is the statutory property right which grants to creators or authors the exclusive rights in their creation for a specified period of time. Seen as a foundational protection, this right is expressed in the United States Constitution as a means of promoting economic incentive for creative activities.
Copyright protects the expression of ideas, but not the ideas themselves. As such, copyright law protects works such as books, pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works, music, photographs, movies and computer programs.
Copyright law grants an owner a bundle of rights. The owner of a copyright has the exclusive right to:
- reproduce the work;
- prepare derivative works based upon the work;
- distribute copies of the work to the public;
- perform the work publicly;
- display the work publicly; and
- perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.
In the event someone has infringed a copyright you own, you must satisfy two elements to maintain a lawsuit for copyright infringement. First and foremost, you must prove that you own a valid copyright. In the United States, a copyright arises upon creation; it is not necessary to register the work in question for the copyright to exist. As such, you will own a valid copyright merely by creating the work in question. This does not mean, however, that registration should be considered either unimportant or inconsequential. On the contrary, copyright registration has a number of benefits, including the right to seek statutory damages and attorney’s fees in the event of an infringement.
The second requirement of a copyright infringement claim is proof that the copyrighted work has been copied. This sounds obvious but can often be difficult to establish. In those situations, the copyright holder may provide evidence to infer that the copyrighted work was copied, such as if the alleged infringer had access to the copyrighted work and produced a very similar work.
Copyright infringement actions may also exist against parties other than the infringer on secondary or vicarious liability grounds. For example, if an individual or entity has knowledge of the infringing activity by another and induces, causes, or materially contributes to that infringing activity, contributing infringement has occurred.
Given the rise of the digital age, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) was enacted to clarify copyright law in cyberspace and offer safe harbors to online and internet service providers that host websites posting infringed copyrighted materials. Under the DMCA, an online provider may avoid vicarious liability if it responds quickly to notices to “take down” copyrighted material. The DMCA contains a process for notifying and contacting internet service providers that are hosting infringed materials. It is vital to follow this process in order to preserve all possible claims.
Copyright holders must be vigilant in ensuring their copyrights are not violated given the speed and ease at which material can be copied and pasted on the Web. When copyrighted material is infringed on the internet, the copyright holder must follow the provisions of the DMCA.
If you or your business has been victimized by copyright infringement, contact the experienced Virginia Copyright Infringement Attorneys at MartinWren, P.C. at (434) 817-3100. We can help stop the infringement and protect your rights. The Virginia Intellectual Property Attorneys at MartinWren, P.C. have the legal experience and technical knowledge to protect your intellectual property and will zealously represent you by providing cost-effective and practical solutions to the infringement of your copyright.