* This is a guest post from Aaron Hall. Aaron is a Minnesota business lawyer that handles intellectual property matters. See his information below.
Someone is copying my website. What are my options?
Illegally copying websites is a big problem as the internet grows. Illegal copies of your website may be made by competitors, spammy websites looking for free content, or other businesses who liked what you wrote. If you are the victim of copyright infringement, you have a number of legal rights and options.
Options for Victims of Copyright Infringement
By creating content for your website, you automatically own a copyright in that content. If someone is infringing your copyright by copying your website content without permission, you have the following options.
1. Try to Work it Out Yourself
First, you can try to work it out with them by contacting them and asking them to take down the infringing material. If you feel comfortable with negotiation, this is certainly the cheapest option.
2. Attorney's Cease and Desist Letter
Second, you can hire a law firm to send a cease and desist letter which serves as a take down notice. That letter can demand that the person take down the infringing material and also pay some sort of fee to settle the matter. For example, you might demand payment of $500 for use up until this point, in addition to the infringing material be immediately removed from the website.
3. Register Your Copyright and Sue
Third, you can register a copyright with the U.S. Copyright office and then sue for copyright infringement. Federal copyright registration is a requirement before initiating a copyright infringement lawsuit in the United States. In general, copyright litigation must be done in federal court. Fortunately, copyright registration is very cheap and you can do it on your own or with the help of an attorney. Then you can contact a law firm to initiate a lawsuit for copyright infringement and seek damages.
The Cost of Protecting Your Rights
One public policy behind copyright law is that you are required to enforce your own rights against those who infringe upon your intellectual property rights. For that reason, your material must at least have certain degree of value in order to justify spending the money on copyright registration and enforcing your legal rights. The courts don't want to get bogged down with small and nominal copyright claims. However, when the value of your material is significant, the options here provide you with the various routes you can take to protect your copyrighted material. Many business owners view enforcing their intellectual property rights as merely protecting an intangible asset of their company. Intellectual property is an investment, like other assets of your business, which requires protection from thieves who would attempt to steal what your business has built.