A copyright protects authors and their original works, such as novels, movies, songs, technology and any other artistic works. Copyright exists from the moment the author creates the original work, so it is not necessary to register the copyright. Creating a public record of the copyright, however, means the author may be awarded damages after making a copyright claim of infringement. In the United States, it is the author’s responsibility to report copyright infringement to a lawyer, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Intellectual Property Program and to the person using the author’s work without permission.
The owner or author of a work has the right to file a civil lawsuit in federal district court. Owners can ask the court for an injunction against the person who violated copyright laws. Owners also can ask for damages and legal fees in the proceedings. If it is found that the copyright claim is baseless, the copyright holder will be responsible for damages stemming from the temporary removal of the content.
A person can make a copyright claim to the Intellectual Property Program of the FBI's Financial Institution Fraud Unit, or the owner can contact a local FBI office. He can also fill out an online form through the FBI's website. If a copyright holder does not want to make a complaint to the FBI, there are various industry-specific and non-profit organizations that assist authors in protecting their copyright.
The owner of a work can also make a copyright claim through a cease-and-desist letter or by writing a copyright infringement notice to the person using the works, or to a website owner or to search engines under the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Copyright claims must be mailed or faxed to the website owner or the designated copyright agent. Many websites will publish directions as to how to file a complaint with their site, but there is basic information that all notices must contain.
A copyright claim must contain the author’s contact information and signature. It must state the problem clearly and describe the work that is being used without permission. Helpful details such as the page number, the name of the work or the web address should be included.
The note also should state when the work was first published and if you have registered copyright, although registration is not necessary. Finally, outline the steps you would like the person committing copyright infringement to take and set a deadline for the person to cease using or distributing the disputed material. Actions the author will take if the copyright infringement continues also should be clearly spelled out in the note.