Stolen Internet Content…Take These Three Steps!

In the age of social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest, we are more connected than ever. Smart people have leveraged this connectivity to make themselves highly visible and build incredibly successful businesses. But even smart people are subject to stolen internet content!

But what usually starts as a hobby can quickly turn into someone’s sole source of income. That makes the content that they create even more valuable. So what do if someone steals your internet content?

 First: Identify the Content 

I can’t tell you how many times I hear people talk about trademark infringement in connection with a photograph, or wanting to copyright a brand name. In order to protect your intellectual property (and that’s what all of this is), first you have to know what you’re protecting.

 A copyright is a form of legal protection that applies to “original works of authorship, fixed in a tangible medium.” Technically, copyright protection is a bundle of rights that does apply to works whether they are registered or unregistered. 

However, registering your copyrighted material will give you a number of benefits like statutory damages and being able to enforce your rights directly in federal court. Items like literary works, paintings, live performances, movies, software, photographs, and e-books are all protectable by copyright.

 On the other hand, trademarks are about source identification as it relates the particular goods and services. Very basically, trademarks apply to words, symbols, phrases, sounds, and sometimes even colors that uniquely identify the source of those goods/services. More simply put, trademarks protect brand names. An example of some famous trademarks are Nike, Google, and Apple. 

In the United States, trademarks do not have to be registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to be protected, but registration of your trademark is helpful from a legal standpoint, especially if you have a brand that is exposed on a larger scale. It will enhance your stolen internet content case.

 Second: Take the Path of Least Resistance to make a case for stolen internet content

 Once you’ve identified the content, figure out how you can get the person stealing from you to stop the fastest. Usually this involves reporting the misappropriated content to the proper social media platforms from which the information is stolen, if social media is where the theft occurred. 

These sites typically have forms for reporting infringement that look relatively straightforward. DIYers beware: If you don’t know how to put together the right complaint, or you don’t quite understand the underlying issue (i.e., copyright vs trademark), you could be setting yourself up to have your complaint denied. 

Certain content theft is more complicated than others, and the unskilled person may not have the know-how to craft an argument in the way the infringement divisions of the applicable platforms want to see.

Generally, when dealing with trademark matters, certain sites require registration when reporting infringement. It’s also important for some to show that the person committing the theft is truly “passing off” themselves for you to prove that it is a case of stolen internet content.

These sites are concerned about the balance between trademark owners’ rights and the right of users to engage in true competition. This usually requires that you show consumers are likely to be confused between the two accounts. 

In cases involving copyright, if the report to the social media sites is unsuccessful, you can also look to file a DMCA takedown notice, or try approaching the infringer via email first to see if they will be amenable to removing the offending content. Again, crafting the argument is the most important part in getting any infringement reported correctly and taken down swiftly. 

 Third: Get a Lawyer 

 I think it helps to have a solid intellectual property attorney on your team from the get-go. Sure, it costs a little more than doing everything yourself, but addressing infringement is crucial when it comes to protecting the integrity of your content and brand from stolen internet content. 

And let’s face it – that’s how most online social media influencers make their livings. Without good protection, you’re setting yourself up for a mess. 

 If you think that someone might have stolen property that legally belongs to you, it is recommended consult an attorney. Before you try to deal with a trademark or copyright issue on your own,  it is best to cover all your bases by consulting a professional to protect what is legally yours. Contact today to discuss your situation.