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Copyright Infringement & Litigation

What is a Copyright?

A copyright protects your intellectual property from use by others. If you produced a work with artistic or unique value, you have the right to exercise control over your creation. Copyright law is particularly relevant to artists, performers, writers, and developers. It stops others from copying your work, taking your due credit, or profiting unfairly from your efforts.

As the owner of a copyrighted work, you may:

  • Perform that work for an audience
  • Produce replications of your work
  • Distribute copies of your work
  • Create derivatives from the original

Copyrights apply to text, visual, performance, and digital mediums. The law only applies to creative works and does not protect ideas, names, facts, or processes. A unique work automatically receives a copyright as soon as it physically exists. It isn’t necessary to register with the U.S. Copyright Office, but doing so improves your protection and recourse against infringement.

Copyright Infringement

Copyright infringement occurs when some other party uses your copyrighted materials without your permission. Although infringement is not a new problem, modern digital technology gives unscrupulous actors many more opportunities to take advantage of your work. Copyright infringement manifests itself in a variety of ways:

  • Counterfeiting: The creation of a fake good that closely resembles a copyrighted work
  • Freebooting: Reposting copyrighted digital media online without permission
  • Piracy: Illegally downloading or reproducing copyrighted material
  • Plagiarism: Directly copying information or work and presenting it as an original
  • Marketing: When business uses another’s intellectual property to promote competing products

Infringement is financially harmful to copyright owners. Even if offending parties do not profit from their illegal actions, the lost opportunity for sales damages a product’s position in the market.

Copyright Dispute and Litigation

You may need to take legal action to enforce your copyright from infringement issues. Most cases begin with a simple cease-and-desist letter, informing the offending party that a problem exists and opens the door to negotiation. Ideally, the other party agrees to repair the offense or remove the offending material.

When talks fail, a more aggressive strategy is necessary. If a copyright is registered, a copyright owner has the option to sue in federal court and seek damages. You must prove that the copied work is “substantially similar” to your own and that you have suffered financial harm.

Sometimes honest mistakes happen. Defensive copyright litigation strategies protect businesses from the overaggressive enforcement of copyrights. Defendants might claim fair use of the work. Copyright “fair use” laws allow others limited use of copyrighted materials without permission for comment, news reporting, and education. Defendants might also successfully argue that the work is open source or that it is not copyrightable in the first place.

Chicago Copyright Litigation Lawyers

Standard comprehensive general liability insurance policies often have provisions to cover expected legal expenses for a party sued for copyright infringement. A qualified attorney can help you estimate potential hazards and recommend an appropriate level of risk management for your business.

At Roth Fioretti, our attorneys have a concentration in copyright law, helping clients with a range of copyright matters, from simple registration to enforcement of copyrights in court. We work with individuals and businesses of all sizes to develop sound intellectual property strategies to protect creative works both at-home and abroad, counsel on fair use practices, and draft advantageous third-party agreements and assignments. Additionally, we represent both plaintiffs and defendants in copyright litigation matters, helping clients reach favorable resolutions to IP disputes.