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How to Respond to A Copyright Infringement Notice?

Copyright is a term that can be heard and seen a lot in the modern world and many of us must have seen a phrase written on some books or music videos, etc. that the “product is copyrighted under…”. So the very first question that arises is,

What is copyright?

Copyright is a protection of Intellectual Property granted by the law to anyone who creates an original product; it could be any Literature work, Artwork, Cinematographic films, Music Videos, Computer Programs, or Code work and Audio Recordings. The copyrighted product can be identified by the © symbol, marked on any original work.[1] Now, Copyrights are a set of the right provided to the owner of original work by the Section 14 of The Copyright Act of 1957, Moreover, the act also provides various measures for the safeguard of the work and its originality to its rightful owner and also give them the powers to claim damages from anyone who tries to steal or use their work without their permission.

Copyright Infringement

If a person, intentionally or even accidentally infringes the copyrights of someone, He could be held liable to pay damages in most of the countries. The intention is a crucial factor in determining damages. With the rise of technology and Social Media platforms, the issue of Copyright Infringement has become a major one, as most people with no knowledge of copyrights end up using a part of an entire work of someone other in their work, and claims it to be completely original.

How to respond to a copyright infringement notice?

The most important thing one must consider about a copyright notice is that it should never be ignored and must be replied timely and properly or proper action must be taken for it, otherwise, the one sending the notice has the power to sue, and it could lead to heavy fines as damages.[2] But it does not mean that you should do something rash, especially contacting the copyright holder yourself because anything you say regarding the claim can be held against you in a court of law, the best solution for that is to engage a lawyer to contact the Copyright holder.[3]

Now, the first thing needed to send an appropriate reply is to determine whether the claim is valid or not.

The validity of a copyright claim

First of all the basic of the copyright infringement notice must be read carefully, It must contain:

1) The clear mention of the work infringed, so it can be determined whether there was an infringement or not, and

2) Proof of the ownership of the sender over the copyright over the work.

If any notice claiming copyright infringement does not contain the above-mentioned points, then the notice is invalid and does not need any action.

Fair Usage

Section 52 of The Copyright Act of 1957, comprises of some uses of the copyrighted material which does not amount to infringement of copyrights, This generally considers using the copyrighted work for Education, Research, Commenting or Criticizing, Parodying and News Reporting. Such matters come under Fair use of the original work and cannot be claimed for infringement of copyrights.

Public Domain

You must confirm whether the alleged copyright material comes under the public domain or not, sometimes when the owner allows the use of work or the Copyright is expired, then the material comes under the public domain and can be used by anyone without infringing any copyrights.[4]

Permission and License

As already mentioned, copyright infringement is when copyrighted material is used without the permission of the owner, so it must be checked whether the permission was taken by you, your employee, or your employer. Also, Owners of big projects like a Movie or Music album, sell the license to reproduce and distribute their work. So it must be confirmed whether you, your employee or employer holds a license for its use or not. If you hold a license and that covers how you have used the work, then you have all the rights to use that work and no violation of copyrights has been done. But it must be made sure that your use is covered under the license or terms of condition.[5]

In Case of being Guilty of Copyright Infringement

In case, you have infringed the copyright and used original work wrongly then, in most cases you will be at a disadvantage because no matter intentional or not, you have done something illegal. But there is no need to panic.[6] It could be dealt in three ways,

1) If you have used a small part of some copyrighted material in your own, original big project, then you can negotiate with the owner of that work to remove that copyrighted part and not include any monetary damages if the owner agrees to it.

2) In most of the cases the copyright infringement notice contains an amount demanded by the sender, you can pay that amount to avoid long legal process and can even negotiate for a lower price with the sender.

3) In case of the sender being fixed on a legal action then you should seek the help of a lawyer to defend your case; there could be many defenses which a skilled lawyer can find in such copyright infringement cases that are not generally known to the common citizen. The Copyright Act of 1957 also states that criminal action can be taken against any guilty person and states a punishment of imprisonment of a minimum of 6 months and maximum of 3 years, or fine of at least Rs. 50,000 and up to Rs. 2,00,000.[7]

In the era of Modern technology and Social media, with tons of content creating platforms, awareness, and knowledge regarding copyright laws and fair use becomes extremely necessary and with few minor efforts, you can easily avoid copyright issues. Use products in the public domain, take the permission of the owner, etc.

With the growth of Intellectual Property in every sector, its protection becomes necessary, any physical property can be protected easily but for the protection of IP the Copyright Laws must be taken seriously and they must be administered and executed properly.

[1] Harris, Lesley Ellen. “What to Do If You’re Accused of Copyright Infringement.” World Intellectual Property Organization. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2020. <https://www.wipo.int/sme/en/documents/copyright_infringement_fulltext.html>.

[2] Konitshek, Hannah. “How to Respond to a Copyright Infringement Notice.” Legal.io. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2020.

[3] Konitshek, Hannah. “How to Respond to a Copyright Infringement Notice.” Legal.io. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2020.

[4] Stim, Richard. “Copyright Protection: What It Is, How It Works.” Stanford Copyright and Fair Use Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2020. <https://fairuse.stanford.edu/overview/faqs/copyright-protection/>.

[5] “Copyright Infringement: What to Do If You’ve Been Accused” Vethan Law Firm n.d. Web 29 May 2020. < https://info.vethanlaw.com/blog/copyright-infringement-what-to-do-if-youve-been-accused>

[6] Roggio, Armando. “How to Respond to a Copyright Infringement Notice.” Practical Ecommerce. Practical Ecommerce, n.d. Web. 29 May 2020. <https://www.practicalecommerce.com/how-to-respond-to-a-copyright-infringement-notice>.

[7] The Copyright Act,1957

This article is authored by Satrajit Somavanshi, First-Year, B.A. LL.B (Hons.) student at Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law.

Also Read – Legal Procedure for Copyright Registration In India

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