How Do I Report Copyright Infringement?

If you're aware of someone stealing your work online or in print, you can't afford to waste time wondering what to do. As an American, you have rights when it comes to intellectual property and copyrighted work. If you've filed your idea with the U.S. Copyright Office, you have grounds to sue. It doesn't matter where the other party is using your work, or if they're making a profit on it or not. As the rightful creator and owner of the work, you need to be informed about any copyright infringement the moment it happens. If someone takes credit for your idea or "borrows" work without acting, it's a serious offense. If you're ready to protect your work in court, here's what you need to do. The information provided here is for general information only and should not be used as legal advice.

  1. Assess Your Case. Not every case is a good candidate for a copyright infringement lawsuit. Remember, even if you have a strong case of someone stealing or repurposing your work and turning a profit, if you haven't registered your work with the U.S. Copyright Office, there's not much even the best lawyer can do about it. That's why it's so important to cover your tracks. Before you put an idea, logo, or phrase out in the world, you need to make sure it's trademarked or copyrighted first. That means applying for a copyright and waiting for a decision before going public with your work.
  2. Get An Experienced Copyright Lawyer. It's not enough to hire an amazing lawyer for your case. You need to hire someone who has experience in and a deep knowledge of copyright law. There are a lot of potential twists and turns in this area of the law, making it potentially difficult for you to bring your case to trial. When it comes to copyright protections, the law is often on the side of the guilty party simply because it's difficult to prove who thought of an idea first. That's why it's so important that you hire someone who really knows their stuff.
  3. Send A Cease And Desist Letter. Before you file your complaint, you might want to reach out to the person using your work and let them know that you'd like them to discontinue their use of your idea. If they don't take your copyright notice seriously, then you'll want to start building your case against them. Many times, a simple cease and desist letter addressed to the other person, who may or may not be aware they're breaking the law, is enough to end the matter. However, if the other party is persistent, you'll need to take firm action.
  4. File With The U.S. Copyright Office. If someone is using your work, the best way to stop them once and for all is to file an official complaint with the U.S. Copyright Office. After you do this with the help of your lawyer, the office will inform you whether or not your case is going to trial. In the meantime, the other party will have to stop using your work until you can settle the issue in court. Copyright law should be taken seriously whether your case ends up going to court or not.

What If Someone Is Profiting Off My Idea?

While some work is in the public domain or considered to be fair use material, other copyrighted work should never be used without the owner or creator's permission. When someone uses your work to make money, it's an even more serious offense. Whether your design, trademarked phrase, or artistic creation is being used to sell apparel, gain clicks, or bring in any kind of revenue, you need to prosecute the offending party to the full extent of the law. Always speak to your lawyer to figure out the best course of action for your case.

Fiscal Year Number Of Offenses Median Fine Amount
2011 170 $136,706
2012 197 $91,488
2013 199 $170,871
2014 198 $100,293
2015 95 $107,808
2016 82 $150,000
2017 80 $260,800

While both copyrights and patents exist to protect intellectual property from being stolen or used without permission, they have very different functions. A copyright exists to protect a phrase, design, or image from being used, while a patent refers to an idea or invention. For instance, you can patent an Apple computer, but you'd have to copyright the Apple logo. Whether someone is using a copyrighted piece of work without your permission, or is using a patented device or concept without having any ownership over it, you need to act fast. As long as you have an experienced lawyer by your side, you can easily fight copyright infringements and patent theft in regards to your work.

Top Five Districts Affected:

  • Northern District of California
  • Middle District of Florida
  • Eastern District of California
  • Southern District of New York
  • Southern District of Florida

In 2017:

  • 81.3% of offenders were male
  • 66,873 copyright infringement cases were reported
  • 80% of these involved criminal infringement
  • The average term for offenders was 25 months
  • 31 to 40% of offenders received a shorter sentence.
  • 85% of offenders had zero criminal history before being tried
  • 40% of cases saw offenders profiting $150,000 or less
  • 82.9% of cases saw offenders profiting over $1.5 million
  • 81.3% were United States citizens
  • 17.5% saw a sentence decrease due to having no previous criminal history
  • 8.8% of offenders saw a sentence increase due to commercial profit off of copyrighted work
  • The average age of offenders was 43 years.
  • 43.8% of offenders served time
  • The average length of prison time was 15 months.

In Depth

Once in a blue moon, two people have the exact same idea and put it out into the world at the same time. But while some logos and products that are eerily similar might seem unrelated, the companies who created them know better. The truth is, companies big and small steal from each other all the time. Think it can't happen do you? Neither did Henry Perky, the man who invented shredded wheat in the 1890s.

When John Kellog, the founder of Kellog's cereal, got a whiff of the stuff, he was quick to repackage it as his own creation. Sadly, Perky had already died by this time, so Kellog got to pass off the classic breakfast cereal as a product of his own imagination. It was Perky's family who suffered in the end, all because they waited too long to file suit.

Don't ever let this happen to you. Be sure to read our exclusive guide on winning your copyright infringement lawsuit, found on this page. Simply scroll beneath this video to connect with a copyright lawyer who will protect your intellectual property. If you're ready to get compensated for your work, here's what you need to do ASAP.

If you're ready to get compensated for your work, here's what you need to do ASAP.

#1: Find Out If You Have A Case. Before you file an official complaint with the copyright office, you need to make sure you actually have grounds to sue. Remember, intellectual property theft is notoriously tricky to prosecute. Just ask George Lucas, the Star Wars filmmaker who fought to keep a Reagan-era defense initiative from stealing the name of his hit film franchise.

Lucas lost out, and now the term "star wars" is totally up for grabs. It just goes to show that no matter how much power you have, you need to make sure you bring a strong case to court if you want to win. If you want to even file a complaint, your work has to be registered with the trademark office. Even a rejection for a copyright application counts, just as long as the government has something to prove that you got to the idea first.

#2: Get A Copyright Attorney. When it comes to copyright cases, you won't get very far without a great lawyer by your side. More specifically, you'll need a copyright attorney who knows intellectual property laws inside and out. With all her wealth and influence, Kylie Jenner wouldn't have been able to fight in court against makeup artist Tiffany Herrmann without an experienced attorney pleading her case.

With all her wealth and influence, Kylie Jenner wouldn't have been able to fight in court against makeup artist Tiffany Herrmann without an experienced attorney pleading her case.

When Herrman alleged in 2018 that Kylie Cosmetics had stolen the name and idea for her "Born To Sparkle" eyeshadow palette and imagery, a lawsuit was born. Luckily, Kylie lawyered up quickly and protected herself. If you don't want to be sued for stealing an idea you might not even have known about, you need to do the same.

Make sure to refer to our guide on protecting your copyrighted work in court. You can find it on this page. Scroll beneath this video to find a lawyer who will win your case and help you get back to being a visionary.

#3: File With The Copyright Office. Once you and your lawyer have filed an official complaint with the copyright office, you need to make sure it's taken seriously. Remember that even huge brands like Spotify get sued for copyright infringement all the time, and the courts should take your case every bit as seriously no matter what the circumstances are. If you've asked the offending party to cease and desist and they've ignored your wishes, that's the time to get serious and file your complaint without fail.

If you've asked the offending party to cease and desist and they've ignored your wishes, that's the time to get serious and file your complaint without fail.

#4: Get A Court Date. We're not lawyers, and this isn't legal advice, but if you don't want your copier to get away with stealing your hard work, you can't afford to sit around doing nothing. Along with your lawyer, make sure you nail down a court date so that the person using your work will be forced to take responsibility for their actions.

Copyright law is a serious thing, and your intellectual property is worth its weight in gold. Don't end up like so many artists, writers, and tastemakers who let inferior creators use their ideas and never got to profit from their own work.

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