Legal Ramifications – Copyright VI – Damages And Other Remedies

This will be the last post on the fundamental basics of Copyright law and will cover what happens when a plaintiff successfully sues a defendant for copyright infringement.  The short answer is that the plaintiff will be entitled to damages, real and those imposed by the law and injunctions, orders telling the defendant to stop what they are doing.  

Before we get there. let’s review Copyright in 30 seconds.  Copyright is a creature of the state.  Every commercial country in the world grants authors and artists the right to prevent others from making copies of their works.  Although Copyright law is different in every country, much of it has been harmonized due to the fact that, again, most countries have conformed their laws to the requirements of international treaties.  The copyright to the work exists as soon as the work is created, “fixed in a tangile form” and the author does not have to do anything more – except in the USA where the work must be registered with the US Copyright Office in order to bring a law suit in a federal court.  You may use parts of a work protected by copyright under the “fair use” defense, particularly if you are using the portion for comment and you aren’t damaging the commericial viability of the work.  If, however, you copy the work and can’t but up a good defense, such the fair use defense (there are a couple of others) then you may be liable to the Copyright owner in a law suit.

Whew!

A couple of things.  First, if you are accused of copyright infringement, you should consult a lawyer as soon as possible.  This post is not legal advice and lawsuits always turn on the specific facts of the case.  Second, most cases don’t go to trial, but can be settled quickly by the parties through some form of negotiation.

OK, so what happens if a Copyright is infringed?  The owner of the copyright try to get the defendant to stop the infringing use and maybe to pay some money. Then it is up to the defendant to agree or not.  If an arrangement can’t be worked out, the plaintiff will ask the court to:

1. issue orders (injunctions) to prevent further violations;

2. award money damages if appropriate to compensate the plaintiff for the losses it suffered; and

3. in some cases, award attorney fees.

In most cases, if we are talking about someone copying a substantial part of your blog, you should be able to get them to stop and remove the offending use simply by sending an email to them and explaining the situation.  One of the good things about the Internet and blogging is that material can be removed quickly.  The ugly part of it is that is easy to steal stuff and pass it off as your own.

In our next post Legal Ramifications will look at the world of Trademarks.