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Copyright Protection: Part 2 - After The Fact - Discovery

If you find that your copyright has been violated, take the following steps to document every single piece of evidence you discover. This will be the supporting documentation your attorney uses when they write letters on your behalf, or when they represent you in court should it get that far. No attorney will represent you in a copyright infringement suit without seeing all of the evidence. Taking these steps to document and organize your evidence before consulting your attorney will speed things along. It also will save you fees because your attorney will not have to hire someone to collect and compile this information.

  • Make a table to document every instance of infringement. Each row in the table should represent a separate instance of unauthorized use. The columns of the table should be a use #, a thumbnail of the image infringed with image ID as a caption, the URL of the web page on which the image appears, a description of the context of the use, and an exhibit ID (for example Exhibit A) that references your evidence of the use (like a PDF or screen shot correctly labeled with the exhibit ID).
  • For each web page that contains unauthorized uses of your work, capture a screen shot and/or generate a PDF file using your web browser's File > Print function. This is your evidence and will become the exhibit you reference in your chart of uses.
  • Document the URL of every web page on which your photographs have been used without your permission.
  • Save the source code of the web pages on which unauthorized uses of your photographs appear using your browser's File > Save As function. This will preserve the context in which your photos appear should the web site owner make revisions to the pages between the time you find your images and the time you are ready to pursue remedies.
  • Peruse this source code of the web pages you save looking for tags. These may reference other sites where more unauthorized uses may appear. For example, it is common for MySpace layout designers to use free photo hosting sites like Flickr or Photobucket to host the graphics and photographs incorporated in the layout. If you find a reference to one of these sites, copy and paste the URL into another browser window and peruse the files stored there. You may find additional uses of your photos you were not aware existed. If you find additional uses, include all of them in your chart.
  • Repeat all the above steps for the additional uses you discover in order to collect and preserve all of the evidence.
  • For each of the uses in your chart, research fair license fees that would apply. There are many tools on the market that document historical license fees for different uses and periods of time. You need to know what is a fair compensation for using your work. You and your attorney will need this information to negotiate a fair settlement.

Discovering that your copyright has been violated generates a lot of emotions and the desire for swift reaction. Keep your calm and diligently document every piece of evidence you can gather. Having your evidence organized and knowing the fair market value of your images will prepare you to negotiate with confidence.
© 2007 Walter Rowe. All rights reserved.