How Can a Company Check for Infringement of Its Copyrights?

By Stephanie Dube Dwilson

Copyright infringement is a big concern for companies that want to protect their photos and text. The law protects original works that are fixed in a tangible medium, such as written works, photos, movies, software, and songs. It's important to remember that a copyright protects original works but it does not protect mere ideas, such as a plot idea for a novel, or facts. Infringement generally occurs when an original work is reproduced without permission or citation. Companies can access a variety of online tools to check for copyright infringement.

When Text Is Stolen

One of the most common sources of copyright infringement today comes in the form of stealing text from someone else's blog, news article, or book. Commenting on a blog or borrowing a short quote with a citation is typically fair use, not infringement. But taking entire sections of an article and claiming them as one's own is typically infringement. Your company can check for copyright infringement for free by simply doing a Google search. Choose a distinct phrase or sentence from your website, article or blog, enter it into a Google search in quotes, and perform a search. The results may show you if anyone has stolen your copy.

Image Searches

Another common form of copyright infringement involves stealing photos from someone's blog or website. Even if the other website gives you credit for the photo, using it without your permission may still be a copyright violation -- not fair use -- and subject to infringement law. You may use Google Image Search or its browser extension to find out if someone else is using your photograph. If it is, you may demand the photo be taken down or you may sue for damages.

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Recovering Stolen Content

If you find someone that has stolen your company's copyrighted photos, texts, or even web design, it may be time to take action. You may request a takedown, pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. According to the DMCA, you may send a takedown notice to the web host, also known as the service provider. The notice should identify which works are infringed and where the infringement takes place, contact information for yourself, and a statement confirming you own the copyright to the items in question, under penalty of perjury. Service providers often respond quickly, because they can be immune from liability if they respond to takedown notice.

Software to Help You

A number of software programs exist that can help your company track stolen copyrighted material. Copyscape lets you enter your website URL and searches for any matching content. Similarly, programs like iCopyright Discovery provide automatic and continuous monitoring for content stolen from your website.

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