What to do when your intellectual property is violated
Brian from Audio Attitude and the Procrasticast recently emailed both Adam Curry and me to let us know that EveryZing, formerly Podzinger, was infringing on the copyrights of our respective online properties. In Adam’s case, it’s a violation of Podshow’s IP, and in my case, a violation of the Creative Common Non-Commercial clause in my show’s license.
Because my show is the property of the Student Loan Network, our lawyers from Holland and Knight will just send a simple cease and desist letter, but Adam asked a very good question – what do people who don’t have a squad of lawyers do?
At PodCamp Boston last year, the fine folks from the Berkman Center for Internet & Society – a part of the prestigious Harvard Law School – gave out guides to Internet and intellectual property law, but if you weren’t there, here’s the short version.
Disclaimer: I AM NOT A LAWYER. I know a few lawyers, and have some lawyers, but I am not a lawyer and this blog post is NOT LEGAL COUNSEL OR ADVICE. Also, I’m speaking as a citizen of the United States, which means that if you live, work, or podcast outside of the US, or the dispute you have is with an entity outside the US, you will need to check local laws to see what applies. Always get a real lawyer for your specific situation.
First, understand what copyright is and what fair use is. You can determine if your copyright is being infringed by this primer on copyright law from Harvard Law.
Second, if your copyright is being infringed, document it by taking screenshots, photos, or video, printing them out, and send a Cease and Desist letter. The University of Texas has a great sample of a Cease and Desist letter here. It’s best to get any kind of legal notice notarized; a friend with a legal background recommended getting the notarization done by a court clerk or other court official, but if push comes to shove, any notary public will do. Make two copies and retain them, fax it, then send the original by certified mail or any delivery service that certifies a package was received and signed for.
At this point, most responsible companies will remove the infringing property and notify you as specified in the cease and desist letter. If they don’t, you’ll need to acquire legal representation. Depending on the potential damages involved, you may be able to find a lawyer who will either work pro bono or on a contingency basis; otherwise, you can also inquire with the National Legal Aid and Defender Association or your state’s Legal Aid organization.