The great thing about the internet is that it gives you a fast, easy way to share your creative work and build an audience. For a budding writer, photographer, filmmaker, or musician, this is a huge benefit that makes breaking into your chosen business simpler than ever. However, there is a downside. Your content that's so easy to share is also easy to steal. So what do you do when you discover that someone else is claiming your content as their own? Here are a few steps that can help you get your content back, or get compensation.
Step 1: Contact the Infringer
The simplest and surest way to resolve a stolen content problem is often to simply contact the infringer. In many cases, you can get your content removed or be compensated if you just ask. Decide what you want – do you want to be paid for your work? Do you want attribution? Or do you just want the work taken down? Once you've decided, compose a letter and send it off to the infringer, or if you can't locate contact information for the person who's claiming your work, write to the publisher of the website with your demands.
Keep your tone firm but professional, and save a copy of your letter for your own records. If this doesn't work, you may need it for the following steps.
Step 2: File a Copyright Infringement Claim With the Hosting Company
If you don't hear back from the infringer or the website in a reasonable amount of time, or if they actually refuse to remove your content, then it's time to go a step further and contact the hosting service for the website that's using your content.
There are several websites that you can use to find out who is hosting a specific website. Once you locate the hosting company, you need to file a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) complaint with them. How you file the complaint depends on the hosting company. Some have an online form to fill out, some allow email DMCA complaints, and some require faxes or snail mail. In most cases, this will result in fast removal of your content. Again, save a copy of anything you send the hosting company, in case you need it later.
Step 3: File a Lawsuit
In the event that neither of the other steps works, your last option is to file a lawsuit. You have the option of doing this from the beginning, but because of the expense involved, it's often best to try other methods first.
If the infringer did not respond to a letter or a DMCA complaint, they will have no choice but to respond to a lawsuit, or risk a judgment in your favor. After ignoring a polite request and a DMCA notice, it's unlikely that they would prevail in a court case. If your lawsuit is successful, or if they settle, you will most likely be able to recoup your legal fees and court costs as well as receiving compensation for your stolen content.
If you have found that someone has stolen your content, and you need advice on how to proceed, a visit to a law firm for a free consultation may be a big help. From that point, you'll be able to decide whether you should go ahead with a lawsuit or exercise other options first.
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