Copyright Infringement on Websites and Blogs

Peer-to-peer file sharing, one-click hosters and streaming sites may be the more apparent and well-known realms of piracy on the internet, but copyright infringement also frequently occurs in a more traditional manner on the internet. The scenario is where the owner of a website places the copyrighted content of another on their website, without the permission of the copyright owner. For example, the owner of a tropical-themed lawn decoration website places a photograph of a beach on the website, without a valid license from the owner of the copyright in the photograph, in this case, the photographer. This is a clear-cut case of copyright infringement on these bare facts, and the photographer has a good claim against the owner of the website.

In some cases where copyrighted material appears on a website without the permission of the copyright holder, the website is protected to a certain extent by the DMCA. If the website has registered as an internet service provider under the DMCA with the U.S. Copyright Office, then the website gains the safe harbor protection of the DMCA where a third-party user (not the website itself) has uploaded the copyrighted work. If it is the case that the website is protected by the DMCA then the copyright holder must put the website on notice of the infringement to start the safe harbor process. The DMCA requires the website to contact the third-party user who uploaded the content (to protect free speech), and if the third-party user does not respond or is not able to otherwise counter the claim of infringement, the website must remove the copyrighted content within twenty-one days.

If the website hosting the content is not protected by the DMCA, then the owner of the infringed content has a claim against the website for copyright infringement. The website may still claim that it was a third-party user that uploaded the content, but without the safe harbor protection of the DMCA, the website remains liable for direct infringement. In this situation, the copyright owner may pursue the website for damages incurred for the unlicensed use of the content as well as demand that the content is removed. Typically the first step in this process is the sending of a cease-and-desist and settlement offer letter by the copyright owner or the copyright owner's lawyer to the website. If the website does not agree to the terms of the letter, then it is likely that the copyright owner will have to sue the website for copyright infringement in federal court.

Whether a website or blog with infringing content is protected by the DMCA or not, there is recourse for the copyright owner. If your copyright is being infringed upon by a website or blog, contact a copyright attorney as soon as possible. Several different types of copyright are prone to infringement on websites and blogs, such as photographs, graphics, cartoons, written text, music, and videos. Without a licensing fee or some sort of compensation for use of websites, the copyright owner suffers a loss, usually incalculable, due to the infringement. The damage can only increase over time, so do not delay in contacting a copyright lawyer as soon as possible if your content is being used without your permission. As always, your copyright must be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office in order to sue for infringement of the copyright.

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