These days, everybody who has a business has a website, whether they’re big-name companies, emerging entrepreneurial stars, small mom-and-pop businesses or independent contractors. It’s all too easy, however, to make a mistake and violate someone’s intellectual property rights.
Whatever the cause, you’ve now been served with a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice that’s accusing you of stealing someone else’s intellectual property. What now?
Read the notice to better understand what’s being said (and asked)
You need to examine the notice carefully so that you understand exactly what is being alleged. At a minimum, the notice should tell you:
- Who sent it: Was it the artist who allegedly owns the copyright, your internet service provider, an attorney or someone else?
- What is the alleged infringement? Is it a graphic, video, logo, photo or something else? You need to know in order to respond to the allegations.
- What proof is being offered that the copyright is owned by someone else? Unless the other party has proof that the intellectual property is actually theirs, they may not have much authority over you.
- What does the other party demand? Are they merely asking you to remove the item from your website (via a “take-down notice”)? Do they want some kind of damages? The tenor of the letter may tell you just how much trouble this situation may bring.
Don’t ignore the DMCA notice
You need to reply to the DMCA notice, whether to say that you have proof that you’re using the intellectual property legally (through purchase or license), that you’ve removed it from your website or that you are challenging their allegations.
Failing to respond at all is likely to get you involved in a lawsuit. Since copyright penalties are fierce, with statutory damages that can run up to $30,000 per piece (and higher, if your infringement is found to be deliberate), you need to make sure that you have appropriate legal guidance before you respond.