Picture this; you have recently finished writing an original screenplay, and you hope that you will land a deal on a major television or streaming network to air the said screenplay. To this effect, you meet with a network executive, and after the said meeting, you leave a copy of the screenplay with her. Afterward, however, you receive a call from her that the network has declined the proposal, and will not be taking on your script.
A bit of time goes by. A couple of years later, as you flip through the channels to find a particular show, you come across one that has the exact same dialogue that you wrote, by the characters that you had created, in the network that you had handed over the script to. They had neither approached you again to say that they were creating the show nor did they pay you anything for the script.
What do you do next? If you create original content and someone else uses it without asking for your permission, and you grant permission, then that is copyright infringement. This is a civil case that can be taken to court, and if you find yourself in such difficulty, you will have to get a copyright infringement lawyer. In the eyes of the law, the intellectual property carries as much weight as physical property.
To ensure that no one can reap from your work without proper compensation, there is a myriad of rules and regulations set in place by the law. If you are a victim of copyright infringement, also known as copyright violation, you have the right to take legal action against the said person or organization. An intellectual property lawyer, sometimes referred to as a copyright attorney, can pursue the most effective and efficient remedies for your problem.
What exactly is a copyright?
Copyright, essentially, is an intellectual property right that protects a plethora of entities and items, ranging from creative and artistic to intellectual works. From a traditional perspective, it covered books, poems, short stories, plays, theses, movies, motion pictures, literary works, song lyrics, music compositions, drawing photographs, sculptures, TV and radio broadcasts, computer software, television shows, and even choreography, according to Howard and Howard. You are automatically awarded copyright protection without taking any action on your part. That being said, registering the work comes with huge upsides. They include having it on public record that a particular piece of art is yours. You are provided with a certificate of registration. It may give you the power to collect statutory damages and other fees that stem from successful litigation.
What is copyright infringement?
As mentioned, a copyright owner has some rights that are granted to them via the fact that they are the ones that created an original body of work. When one of these said rights is used without the owner granting permission, then there is deemed, according to the law, a case of copyright violation or copyright infringement. The following are the said rights and powers that are granted to the owner, and that are thus associated with copyright violations.
The right of reproduction
The owner of the copyright has the power to reproduce their body of work however they deem fit and in any fixed form. An example of this is the power to copy an original painting.
The right of distribution
Distribution, in this case, is the ability to sell, lease, display in public, or even lend the body of work. The copyright owner has the power to distribute their body of work in whatever manner they deem fit. An example of contradiction to this right is when someone sells unlicensed copies of a poem that you created.
The right to Derivative Works
If you are the owner of the copyright, you have the power and ability to modify the body of work and even create a new body of work based on the original, in whatever way you deem fit. An example of a copyright violation, in this case, is when someone makes a book you wrote into a movie without asking for your permission or without you granting your permission.
The right to public display
The owner of the copyright has the power to show the body of work, or a copy of it, to the public. This may include even putting the work on the internet. An example of an infringement of this right is when someone puts up a photograph you took on the internet without your permission.
The right of public performance
You have the right to act, play, dance, or recite your body of work directly to the public. In this instance, an example of copyright infringement is when you write a play, but someone else produces the same play without your permission.
What are the penalties for copyright infringement?
If an individual is found to have infringed the copyright of a holder, the holder may sue the person or party civilly for damages arising from that infringement. Some of the more common copyright infringements include;
These are the damages that are established by statute, more specifically the Section 504 Statute in the Copyright Act, according to Nolo. They allow the owner and holder of the copyright to receive an already specified amount of damages, which can be anywhere between 200 to 150,000 dollars, as per the work that has been violated. The statutory damages are higher for parties that willingly and willfully violated the copyright than they will be for persons that were not aware that the copyright did exist in the first place.
This is one of, if not the, most common remedies when it comes to copyright violation. In this case, the party that violated the copyright is ordered by the court to pay all the money that they gained from infringing the copyright to the owner and holder of the copyright.
This is also one of the most common remedies when it comes to copyright violations. An injunction, essentially, is a court order that will force the party that has violated the copyright to stop using the body of work without permission from the holder.
This happens mostly when there is a willful infringement of the copyright. The violating party is also liable to be tried under criminal charges. They face penalties that include imprisonment for up to five years and fines that can go up to 250,000 dollars.
Order of seizures
If the infringing parties have copies of the body of work used without permission from the copyright holder, then the court may order that the said copies be confiscated and seized. It is also very important to note that the copyright violation lawsuit may include a combination of all the above and the attorney fees and the court fees. The copyright infringement lawyer that you will hire will be able to determine the remedies that are most appropriate to you, depending on the particular circumstance.
How will your lawyer be able to prove that your copyright was indeed infringed?
There are a couple of ways in which you can ascertain that a person or party did infringe your copyright. You must first prove the first two elements of a copyright infringement. Here are the first two elements of copyright infringement:
1. You own the copyright to the body of work
The first thing that the lawyer must do in the court of law is to prove that you are the holder of the copyright to the body of work. It may seem a bit obvious, but there are nuances to it, and so it must be proven in court. You must be able to demonstrate to the court that your work, and contribution to the creation of the body of work, is the original and that the body of work exists in a tangible medium of expression, which is subject to legal approval. Essentially, you must express to the court that you were the one to create the original body of work. Though, as mentioned before, it is not required that you register the body of work with the U.S Copyright Office, doing so makes it a lot easier to prove that the work was originally yours.
2. That the copyright was, in fact, infringed
To prove that the copyright was infringed, you must prove that the exclusive rights, the ones listed above, that is, were violated. In some circumstances, this is a far easier element to prove when the work was actually copied or being used by the infringing party to make financial gains. In other cases, however, you will have to prove that the other body of work is substantially similar to your body of work to the point where the copyright is enforced.
How will a lawyer be able to prove that someone copied your work?
You should note that no two copyright cases are the same and that copyright cases are different, some being more nuanced while others being clearly different. Some cases, such as a body of work being copied or distributed without prior permission from the copyright holder, are easier to prove. However, in some cases, the violation may not be so obvious, with the devil being in the detail. An example of this is when the infringing party creates a body of work that is derivative from the original. Here, many aspects need to be considered, and thus the nuances need to be analyzed. In some lawsuits, your lawyer may be able to use circumstantial evidence to prove that the infringement is substantial enough to warrant damages. An example of this is if the original work is a painting about a child flying a pink kite, while the copy is about a child flying a white kit. The court may see that the two works are substantially similar to each other. Information that the infringing party had access to the original work body is evidence that infringement may have occurred.
Exemptions to copyright
There are a couple of exemptions that may be used in order to bypass copyright rights, one of them being fair use. It is considered to be fair use when a person uses the body of work to teach, review, critique, satirize, reference, or any other way that gives credit to the owner of the body of work and holder of the copyright. Moreover, if the person can repurpose the body of work within limits, it is still considered to be within fair use. Whether or not the use of the body of work does fall within these categories is determined by a court of law and within a case-by-case basis, and thus there is no exact manner used.
The pricing of a copyright infringement lawyer
The pricing that will be given to you if you see it fit that you should get a copyright lawyer will depend on many factors, the main one being, does your case hold water? If your case is clear cut, there is more evidence pointing to the fact that the copyright was violated, and you are the plaintiff, then you are likely to be charged lower rates. Initially, you will need a copyright demand letter issued by the attorney, ordering the violating party to cease their behavior, lest you take them to court, according to Klemchuck.
You should be charged anywhere between 400 to 750 dollars for these letters alone. If the case goes to court, you may be charged on an hourly basis, and the rates are upwards of 185 dollars per hour. To get a better financial understanding of the implications of taking on a copyright case, you can go to the copyright infringement lawyer’s office and ask for a free price quote after you are through consultation.