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Let me tell you a story about copyright.  Last week, I had a woman and we’ll call her Jennifer, give me a call and she said, “Kevin, I think I’ve got a copyright infringement action, can you help me?”  And I said, sure, let’s talk about it.

And what she told me was that she had contracted to write an article for a magazine and in that contract was a thousand dollar fee, five hundred she get paid on contract and five hundred she get paid when the article published.  So she wrote the articles, submitted it and it was denied.  So get 0.00 for the original manuscript for the original part of the contract and then she just went about her business.  A couple of months later, she was at the bookstore, pulled the magazine down off the shelf and there’s her article.  And so she was upset about that and gave me a call.

Well, the first thing I asked her was—did she register her copyright and she said, no.  And this happens a lot and so what happens next is something that hopefully as a creative individual, you never get involved in.  We have to talk about the difference between having a righteous beef and the economic justification in enforcing that righteous beef because in her situation, when the contract is there and she has not registered the copyright before the infringement happens, basically what we’re talking about is a difference in remedy and the remedy for an unregistered copyright infringement, although she is protected by a copyright law, the remedies are different.

In this situation, she’s limited to one—an injunction which is basically a court order to make it stop or go to jail.  These are usually handled when there is an ongoing infringement, so if somebody was continually publishing greeting cards relative to one that used the image of something that you did or if there were books being published that infringe your copyright and that was constantly happening or music or any of those things, the injunction makes it stop.

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Now, in her situation, the magazine that already had been published, it’s not going to be published again, so making it stop doesn’t do her a lot of good.  The other thing is what we call actual damages.  Now, actual damages are just what they say.  What harm really occurred here?  Now in her situation, when we—we could definitely litigate and sue over this thing, but when we spent thousands and thousands of dollars to get through Federal courts and get all the way to a Judge or a jury saying, “Yup!  That’s an infringement.”  She would be limited to her actual damages and in this case, those actual damages are going to be all of 0.00.  What they owe her on the backside of the contract and in this situation, she’d have to pay for her own attorney’s fees.

Now, if she would’ve registered that copyright before the infringement which caused all of .00 and you can do it online at copyright.gov, it’ll talk you only about twenty minutes for .00.  If she would’ve done that, then the difference would be that on the table are statutory damages, which are anywhere from 0.00 all the way up to a hundred and fifty thousand dollars per infringement so you don’t have to be limited to just her five hundred dollars and number two, attorney’s fees are on the table.

Now, what this means in practice is that she won’t have to pay thousands and thousands of dollars and be limited to just the contract amount of her infringement situation and she’s going to be made whole by the interning fees.  So what happens is in this scenario, it makes sense for her to engage in an attorney to send a letter saying that you guys have infringed the copyright action here.  You are open to some significant damages of statutory damages and you’re going to have to pay attorney’s fees and why don’t we settle this right now for say ten thousand dollars and in that situation, the other side—this magazine would’ve taken the article and the letter and the draft to their in-house attorney or to their attorneys and said, what’s our situation and those attorneys would have done an analysis and in this case, we’ll assume that there was an infringement going on and come back and say, yeah, you shouldn’t have done that.  We need to pay off the attorney’s fees here before they get out of hand and we need to pay off some demand of at least what the difference in the contract was because we could get dinged for that plus some additional damages.

So the key factor here is that if something is worth anything to you in terms of if you would be upset if somebody stole it and infringed upon it, you need to spend the .00, go to copyright.gov and register that content right away and do it for everything.

Now a lot of people will say, “Well, I can’t afford to register everything that I have for .00 a pop.”  That’s fine, the choice is yours, but if it’s not worth .00 to you, it’s probably not going to be worth at least ten times that to enforce your copyright action.

So anyway, with that, I’ll leave you to your thoughts, but remember, .00 at copyright.gov is the best creative insurance policy an individual can have.  Thanks.

For more leading edge tips, videos, and and much more FREE information about legal issues that will dramatically impact your business, visit my YouTube Channel http://www.youtube.com/user/MrKevinHouchin or my blog at http://www.houchinlaw.com/ – Plain language presented by a top attorney who identifies with your needs and whose primary goal is to be of service.


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