Dealing with Copycats

Have you ever had a situation where you created an original work and it ended up on the internet posted by someone else? This could be a photograph, blog post, song, or even a piece of jewelry.

I recently met a jewelry designer, Lisa (name changed due to confidentiality reasons), who seemed furious that any new design that she creates seems to end up on the internet for sale by someone else in a few months. Lisa’s irritation was especially with Chinese companies copying her designs and putting them up for sale on eBay or Etsy at dirt cheap prices. Lisa was feeling helpless because she spent a lot of time and money getting copyright registrations for her designs and had no recourse against these sellers. She had no incentive to create any new designs because she thought that they were going to be copied anyway by some Chinese company or individual and destroy her market. She seemed worn out.

Luckily, she expressed her grief to the right person. So is there any solution for Lisa? Sure, and the answer is filing a takedown notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). DMCA was enacted so that web hosts are not held liable for infringement of their users. For example, if someone illegally copied a jewelry design created by Lisa and put it up for sale on eBay, eBay will not be liable for the acts of the infringer so long as eBay had no knowledge of the infringement, and took down the infringing designs from its website after receiving proper notification from Lisa.

The notification is called Takedown Notice which is an online notification filed by copyright holders or their representatives notifying the web host of the infringing material and demanding removal of the such material.   

Most web hosts allowing users to post content or material on their websites have a Takedown Notice procedure in place. As a first step, take a screenshot of the website with the infringing material. Then, contact an intellectual property law attorney to determine how to notify the web host of the infringement for removal of the infringing material.

The DMCA is a powerful tool to get immediate action against infringers situated in far away locations. So don’t be disheartened and get on with your business!

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