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July 12, 2013

Copyright Damages Risked By Use of Torrent Sites

There's plenty of commentary on the internet about copyright trolls, with entities such as Malibu Media being on the receiving end of that identifier. Malibu Media is a company that owns copyright rights to various pornographic works and have been active in filing copyright infringement lawsuits against defendants throughout the United States, including in the eastern district of Michigan and the western district of Michigan, for the unauthorized downloading and viewing of their works. In particular, Malibu Media files a complaint against a John Doe since they do not have the name of the person associated with the particular IP address. They then get expedited discovery from the court and subpoena the provider of that IP address, such as Comcast. The owner of the IP address is then provided notice by Comcast that their identity will be revealed if they do not quash the subpoena or otherwise resolve the matter with Malibu Media.

Once this person is provided notice, they have several options. First, they may determine that they did not violate any copyright and work with a copyright attorney to defend the lawsuit. Second, they may choose to fight the subpoena in hopes of the plaintiff not wishing to proceed further, although this is a risky endeavor. Third, they may try and resolve the matter without having their identity revealed. Copyright attorneys are available to assist in any one of these options. However, it is important for the person who is alleged to have infringed on others' copyright to understand what damages might be available under the copyright act. In particular 17USC504 provides the remedies in damages available for any copyright infringement. While a copyright owner, who has successfully registered their copyright will always threaten the $150,000 per infringement, known as the statutory maximum, that amount is not the only amount available. In fact, the Copyright Act specifically allows for damages between $750 and $30,000 as the court considers just, especially where there's no willful behavior on behalf of the alleged infringer. Tellingly, however, there is also the ability for the court, within its discretion, to reduce the award of statutory damages to as little as $200 per infringement. The fact of the matter is that there are cases that have interpreted the various provisions and can provide insight into which amount may be applicable to a given factual situation. If you have received a subpoena and could be at risk of statutory damages, you would be well served to speak with a copyright attorney who can assist you in determining your likely liability and financial exposure. Understanding what is at risk may help you to make an informed decision in the event you wish to settle or spend resources defending or otherwise tempting to quash the subpoena in the underlying matter.

Regardless, copyright infringement lawsuits by copyright owners do not appear to be slowing down. Therefore, you would be well served to understand, via a copyright attorney or on your own, what is at risk.

How to Address Copyright Infringement on the Internet

Almost every single day a prospective or existing client calls and asks how they are to address copyright infringement on the Internet. The answer to the question requires an analysis of what truly is at issue with the copyright infringement. This begins by identifying what the copyright at issue is. For example, is it a photograph, language or other written content, or a video? Once the specific kind of copyright is identified, it is critically important to find out who owns that copyright. While typically the creator of any kind of work is the owner of the copyright, employment issues and work-for-hire doctrines may reveal a different answer. Nonetheless, in order to understand how one is to address copyright infringement on the Internet must begin with confirmation as to ownership of a valid and existing copyright.

Assuming that the work at issue qualifies as a copyright, regardless of if its registered or not, the next step in the analysis is to identify who is making the unlawful use of that copyright. Given that the Internet is available in countries beyond the United States, we first try to determine whether or not we are dealing with a United States entity. There are various ways to confirm this. For example, we can look to domain name registration information, website server hosting information, and other company information to determine whether or not the alleged unlawful user of the copyright is located within the United States. This is important because the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) may be an avenue through which a takedown notice can be sent if in fact we are dealing with a United States entity. Alternatively, if we are dealing with an entity located outside of the United States, we need to determine which laws apply to the same. For example, China is a signatory to the Berne Convention and thus allows various ways to address copyright infringement under Chinese and US law alike.

Having identified a copyright, and determined the identity and location of the alleged infringer, a copyright attorney will now advise the client as to its options. While a cease and desist letter is typically a starting point for copyright infringement on the Internet, there may be additional actions that can go with that notice letter. For example, as noted above, a takedown notice via the digital millennium copyright act may also accompany, although separately, any cease and desist letter to an alleged infringer. This will ensure that the web post also provides notice to the alleged infringer and may even extradite the removal of the infringing work if the alleged infringer does not cooperate. Besides letters, it is also important to determine whether a copyright infringer lawsuit can be filed.  In making this determination, it is important to factor in the considerations of the alleged infringers extent of liability, the likelihood of success, the likelihood of collectability, and related factors. Once advised by a copyright lawyer, the client can decide whether or not they wish to pursue a copyright infringement lawsuit.

Ultimately, addressing copyright infringement on the Internet begins with active monitoring of one’s copyrighted content. Knowing how your copyrighted material is being used and by whom allows you to more effectively address instances of copyright infringement on the Internet. Should you identify such infringing activity, you should contact a copyright lawyer who can work through the steps outlined in this post and ultimately address your copyright infringement on the Internet.

April 18, 2013

Subpoena to Reveal Identity Associated with an IP Address

This is Attorney Brian Hall with Traverse Legal, PLC; I am a copyright attorney that regularly handles copyright infringement actions and defense of the same throughout the United States. 

Today, I will be dealing with what has become a regular situation for many of my clients both prospective and existing.  And what we’re talking about today is when a subpoena has been issued to reveal the identity of an individual associated with an IP address.

Welcome to Copyright Law Radio. We bring you the best in copyright news, legal advice and information.  From copyright infringement claims and defenses to threat letter issues, DMCA takedown notice letters, copyright licensing, and legal analysis of the latest copyright law cases, we have a copyright attorney who can answer your copyright questions.

Continue reading Subpoena to Reveal Identity Associated with an IP Address >>
February 11, 2013

Revenge Porn Websites & Copyright Infringement

If you are the victim of a posting on a revenge porn website, you're going to need a good web attorney to help you have the photograph removed.  Revenge porn websites have become very much the rage over the last 12-months.  Revenge porn typically occurs when someone posts a nude or naked photograph of their boyfriend or girlfriend on one of these revenge porn websites, an act which is often motivated by ill will. 

How do you remove a naked or provocative picture of yourself from one of these revenge porn websites?  There are a variety of different strategies both under copyright infringement law, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and right to publicity, which could provide you leverage in removing a photograph of yourself from one of these websites.  Under copyright law, the person who takes the video or photograph is typically the copyright owner.  If someone took one of your photographs to which  you have copyright protection, you can send a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice from your copyright attorney to the revenge porn website in order to have it removed.  You also have a right to control how your likeness is used on the internet, especially commercial uses.  The right to publicity is often a legal theory used by attorney who are trying to remove revenge porn postings.  The first step, however, is to have your lawyer do a full analysis of your situation so that you don't make a wrong move out of the gate.  Identifying the appropriate legal strategy is the primary job of an experienced internet law attorney or website lawyer in handling a revenge porn website removal matter. 

January 30, 2013

Revenge Porn Website Faces Copyright Infringement, Invasion of Privacy and Defamation Claims

Copyright infringement, invasion of privacy and potentially defamation claims could exist when your photo, naked, pornographic or otherwise, is posted on a website without your permission. CNN Reports on one lawsuit which is being brought against a revenge porn website where ex-boyfriends can post naked or pornographic pictures of girlfriends who have broken up with them. The website allegedly will take the picture down if you pay them money. For many web visitors, this smacks of extortion.

Continue reading Revenge Porn Website Faces Copyright Infringement, Invasion of Privacy and Defamation Claims >>
January 02, 2013

Copyright Registration Does Not Equate to Copyright Infringement Liability Always

Any individual or business that wishes to protect its original work of authorship would be well served to pursue a copyright registration with the United States Copyright Office.  Registering copyright prior to an infringement or within three months of publication of the particular copyright does entitle the copyright owner and claimant to statutory damages as well as the potential for recovery of attorney’s fees.   In addition, registering a copyright before or within five years of publication of the particular work affords the copyright owner the presumption of validity of the copyright and the facts listed within the registration certificate.  Given the low registration fee associated with a copyright registration filing, it is typically advisable to pursue copyright registration.
Continue reading Copyright Registration Does Not Equate to Copyright Infringement Liability Always >>
November 28, 2012

How to Copyright a Song, Lyrics, and Music to copyright a song, lyrics, and/or music. It's important to recognize at the outset that those are three different things. A song is made up of both the underlying music or notes, along with the lyrics, that allow a song to be played. A song is essentially a sound recording that includes all of those elements. Whereas, music is put together by a composer. Whereas, lyrics are put together by a lyricist.

Continue reading How to Copyright a Song, Lyrics, and Music >>
November 27, 2012

Copyright Infringement: How much is too much?

Today I'll be answering the question, Copyright infringement. How much is too much? What I mean by that is, how much can someone copy from someone else without being liable for copyright infringement? It's a question I get almost every single day, from both perspective clients and existing clients. They want to know, if there's a particular work out there, how much they can copy before they're subject to copyright infringement liability. My answer is always the same. “It depends.” That's not a very comforting answer to clients, but it is the reality.

Continue reading Copyright Infringement: How much is too much? >>
November 13, 2012

How Similar Are Songs Legally Allowed to Sound?


When a court has to look at two pieces of music and decide whether or not they're substantially similar, the cases are really all over the board.   One of the first cases on this issue wasn't a music case.   It was a case about a play with a particular plot about an Irish family and a Jewish family, and a similar movie was made not too long after.

Announcer:   Welcome to Copyright Law Radio! We bring you the best in copyright news, legal advice, and information from copyright infringement claims and offenses to threat letter issues, DMCA take down notice letters, copyright licensing and legal analysis of the latest copyright law cases.   We have a copyright attorney who can answer your copyright questions.   

Matt:   Hello again! Welcome back to Copyright Law Radio.   This is Matt Plessner speaking again, and today we're joined by Tara Aaron, a copyright attorney from the Aaron Sanders Law Firm in Nashville, Tennessee.   We're going to talk a little bit about music today, and how similar two copyrighted compositions are allowed to be.   We're going to answer this question for you, go over it, and debrief you on some of the misconceptions for it as well.   Tara, thank you for joining us today.  

Continue reading How Similar Are Songs Legally Allowed to Sound? >>
November 06, 2012

The Importance of Copyrighting Music

What registration for copyright does is it allows you the opportunity to actually enforce your copyright. In other words, to go after people who are infringing on your copyright and to protect it from illegal copying by other people. Before that, before registration, when you have the copyright from the moment that the work was created, that's an asset that you own. You can sell it. You can license it. You can make money off of it. But in order to actually go to court over your copyright when someone else is copying it, that's when registration becomes important.

Announcer: Welcome to Copyright Law Radio. We bring you the best in copyright news legal advice, and information. From copyright infringement claims and defenses to threat letter issues, DMCA takedown notice letters, copyright licensing and legal analysis of the latest copyright law cases, we have a copyright attorney who can answer your copyright questions.

Continue reading The Importance of Copyrighting Music >>
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