a guide to what you need to do and what you need to know to protect your intellectual property. I am not a lawyer but I have experienced this so many times I may as well be. (see also: NOT OK & THINGS YOU SHOULD NEVER SAY TO SOMEONE WHO IS THE VICTIM OF COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT)
  1. First of all, I'm sorry. This sucks and you definitely are entitled to hate everything for as long as you need to.
    it sucks. there's no excuse. it's not a compliment. it sucks. you don't deserve this. they suck. this sucks.
  2. Know that **it will be empowering** to gain some control over your work, so there are some things you can do.
    They will take time and you will probably cry but it's worth doing for additional reasons I'll continue to explain.
  3. If your work is being copied and **sold** without your consent, start gathering info before you do anything else.
    Screenshot any appearances of it online, save the emails from people who alerted you (customer confusion), try to evaluate the extent of where it appears online and off, try to find the company's legal contact or the individual's address and email and phone who is responsible for the infringing.
  4. If it's not being sold and you just don't want it online in unauthorized places (i.e. torrents), you can skip to the next step.
  5. Now, if you have a way to establish your intellectual property ownership, start to scrub the copy from the Internet.
    By this, I mean start to file DMCA takedown notices and/or cease & desists.
  6. What's a DMCA takedown notice, you ask?
    in short, it's something most companies comply with that says if you submit this form that says you object to content because it infringes on your rights and you can provide reasonable evidence that you own those rights (i.e. a link to your website where your original work appears) they'll remove the content.
  7. Here's the wiki about DMCA:
  8. If the COPY is hosted independently (on someone's random website) you will need to do a "whois" search to find the ISP and send the DMCA notice to them.
    Google "DMCA template" and "Whois" if you need to do this. The Internet will guide you.
  9. How do you fill out a DMCA takedown?
    it's fairly self explanatory and varies slightly from site to site..you will need to gather links to all of the content hosted by that provider. Sometimes this means a link to the image itself in addition to the page it appeared on. Yes, for the case I posted about this week, I had to source over 100 links of where this work appeared and send each one in attached to a complaint to Facebook, Twitter, shopify, etc.
  10. Why should I spend my time and energy doing this?
    1. it keeps the integrity of your work intact 2. the infringer may learn from their bad behavior 3. if it's a repeat infringer, this can help get their access shut down 4. it prevents your work from being exponentially distributed 5. it establishes that you give a shit about your rights, and it's not just about money, if a bigger infringement happens down the line and you need to prove your history toward IP in court. 6. look! it's a list within a list! there are lots of reasons to do this.
  11. "But nothing is original"
  12. If the copy is hosted on a site like Twitter:
    then report the copyright violation through their web system. Major content hosts like Facebook, Instagram, Etsy, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc have their own forms and legal teams exclusively dedicated to responding to this stuff and they will act quickly if submitted through their system rather than by mail.
  13. If the copy is being sold by a huge company like Target or Wal-Mart, lawyer up.
    Companies this big have an in-house legal department. Find the legal contact specifically and plan to be relatively nice to them, it's not their fault. Have only your lawyer communicate with them, and have your lawyer advise you on how to move forward whether it's a cease and desist or a formal complaint. This is where having documentation of the extent of the infringement and any contact info is very helpful (and will save you $ because lawyers are expensive).
  14. If the DMCA takedown doesn't result in removal of the content, lawyer up.
    Pro tip: you'll need to draft or have a lawyer draft a cease and desist & I personally have noticed people take it much more seriously if their legal name, physical address, and phone number are attached to it. That is personal. People get scared they got caught. Hone your stalker skills or pay a lot of $ to a lawyer to do the same. You may need to file a court order to get the name/address of the infringer.
  15. How do I lawyer up?
    You need an intellectual property attorney who specializes in what you're trying to protect (music, writing, photos, art, etc) You can find them through asking around your creative community. You will need to ask about rates. Contingency is also sometimes possible (if there is $ to be had, they'll work for a % of the damages)
  16. Keep in mind you generally can't protect abstract ideas
    (anyone can make a cat pin)
  17. But you can protect your work even if it was partially copied
    Because copying is still f'ing copying and it doesn't matter how much was changed, a trace is a trace. (paraphrasing case history here!)
  18. If it's an exact copy, then heaven help the ass who stole from you because you are taking them DOWN
    document everything before they have a chance to delete it or move it or change it "enough" (unless that's what you want)
  19. Don't take to social media yet
    this is the hardest part to resist, and only recommended if you genuinely feel it's what you need to do from a legal perspective. Google the Lisa Congdon Cody Foster debacle is you want a quick education on how messy social media can make it.
  20. Do get a therapist
    I can't tell you how much this eats me alive. It makes me lose faith in our world entirely. it is dark and it is painful to experience constant and persistent theft. plus, a lot of legal stuff requires complete confidentiality. a therapist will give you the safe space you need to talk about the hell you are living in. I just talked to mine today 👍
  21. Don't expect a windfall
    you'll honesty be lucky if you get anything. Aim to just have the copy pulled, destroyed or eliminated from the market. That's a best case scenario.
  22. Don't expect them to apologize
    they never do and they will deny they ever did anything wrong until their dying day and try to make you feel like you're the crazy person. you aren't and they suck.
  23. Do properly protect your work as much as you can afford to
    if you register your copyrights, the damages are SIGNIFICANTLY taken more seriously than if you don't. your work is copyrighted either way, but a registered copyright is lawyer talk for "uh oh" - a trademark even more so. watermark, include your copyright notice, keep track of where your work appears.
  24. What's a cease and desist?
    it's a formal letter stating your legal claim to your IP (intellectual property) and a request the person /co immediately stop its distribution. it's basically the pause button. it generally is not the end of the line.
  25. You will need to follow up with demands, or legal action
    a lawyer can advise you on where to go from here. demands can be as simple as "agree to never infringe again" or as complex as figuring out a royalty or damage fee for their misuse.
  26. Any questions?
  27. ❤️
  28. Added per comment discussions:
  29. Lawyers don't always know what they're talking about.
    i once had my IP infringed BY A LAWYER who thought it was fair use and it definitely wasn't.
  30. What is Fair Use?
    a freaking nightmare is what it is. Google fair use and good luck bc nobody can really come up with a straightforward example and bend this term to suit their needs
  31. Sometimes you can contact the person directly and work it out in a conversational way
    but honesty I don't recommend it. it's why I didn't link to the shop in my earlier post. People get defensive, deny, or obstruct justice. like, in the example from Monday, this guy who VERY strategically mass manufactured copies and took every available precaution to protect his identity was able to convince @jessee that he was just naive and didn't know better. he did. (love you for sticking up for me though!!!!)
  32. I've had friends, collaborators and licensors infringe on my IP rights as well
    so make sure you always have an agreement so the rights granted are very clear and no one feels "infringed" or misled
  33. when seeking legal counsel, make sure your values align.
    find a lawyer who cares about creative ownership, maybe not a libertarian who wants to see copyright dissolved and everything be in the public domain.
  34. Keep up with the law changing and know and care about your rights or loss of them
    there's an ongoing battle re Orphan Works legislation (basically how copyright protected stuff is when it's hard to find the author) this is a huge problem for people like me whose work is often unattributed on the Internet, but it's also a problem for archivists who want to, for ex., publish recent historical artifacts like letters. It needs to work for both camps. Get involved and write to your congresspeople about the need for increased protection of creative copyrights in the digital age.