Someone used my work online without my permission. Now what?

In this age of the internet, when even grade school children have instant access to the world online, it seems quite normal for people to share images and words from screen to screen at the touch of a button. It only takes a tap or two to copy articles, download photos and otherwise make use of the vast abundance of material on the Web.

However, not all such “sharing” is right or legal. Many people forget that artists and authors make their living by selling original works. When such carefully crafted pieces of art or writing are mistakenly thought to be free for the taking online, it can be a serious financial blow to the original creator.

Here is the good news: If your copyrighted material has been used online without your permission, you may have legal recourse. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a federal law that is intended to help copyright holders enforce infringement claims.

How Can I Take Advantage Of The DMCA?

Essentially, the DMCA gives copyright holders the right to serve the internet service provider (ISP) with a takedown notice. When the ISP that is hosting your copyrighted material receives that takedown notice, it must immediately take action to ensure that your material is removed from the website.

This process isn’t quite as cut-and-dry as it sounds, however. You must follow very specific procedures when serving a takedown notice. The ISP must also comply with various DMCA requirements; if it does, it can avoid being sued for copyright infringement for hosting the material. Plus, the alleged infringer has the option of delivering a counter-notification stating in good faith that the takedown was the result of mistake or misidentification.

So Then What Happens?

If serving the takedown notice doesn’t solve the problem, you have yet another option: You can pursue a copyright infringement lawsuit in federal court.

As you may imagine, you will want to have an experienced attorney on your side to effectively assert your rights. If you have a significant amount at stake, it may well be worth it to hire a lawyer and litigate your case. You may potentially be able to recover financial compensation.