Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Copyright Infringement: How To Protect Yourself

Copying others intellectual property is piracy and is against the law!

You’re starting to see steady sales of your videos then one day, you happen trip across a listing on eBay or another site and see your video title…being sold by someone else! How can this be?

When you start seeing some success in selling your videos, you may find that your website, marketing copy, articles, videos and your other intellectual property have been copied without your permission. This is especially true in the online world, but it can happen in the offline world as well. Even if you use software to protect your DVDs, a determined person can crack and copy them.

When I was working for the university, we discovered an individual who was buying our videotapes, copying them and then selling them under his own business name. He couldn’t have been any more blatant about it. This was pre-internet and he was selling our titles via catalog mailings…and we were on the mailing list. Well, we noticed that although he kept sending out these catalogs, he never purchased any inventory.

When confronted, he admitted it. That ended up costing him a lot in the end because we got a judgment against him and he had to pay us $120,000. We were lucky in that regard because he stupidly had us on his mailing list. If he hadn’t, he might have gotten away with it.

There are some people who will take your profitable idea and create a similar product. Don’t let that fear keep you from producing and creating though. Except for the above situation, I’ve never had anyone do that to me again…that I know of. And even though on the internet it is easier for unscrupulous (or lazy) people to steal your ideas or words, the technology also makes them more transparent and  easier to find as well.

For people who downright steal your intellectual property or use your website copy word-for-word, there are ways you can protect yourself and fight it without spending tons of money on an office full of lawyers.

I suggest doing these things:

1) Sign up for Google Alerts at http://www.google.com/alerts The alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your choice of query or topic.

Then add keywords unique to your site and/or product to your alert. When you do that you’ll sign up to get daily updates from Google searches. You will see if your sites or products show up under other listings.

Using a long tail key word will get you more specific results. For example, we have a video program called LearnToDetail.com so we choose as our search term, “car detailing DVD,” rather than the more generic “car wash.” That way, the search is much more specific than just “car washing” or “car detailing.” (Tip: We also use this to find out what our competition is doing.)

2) Periodically do a manual Google search on a specific phrase on your website or product copy. Copy the phrase exactly as written and include the quotation marks.

If you find someone is copying your site, find out who hosts the infringer’s web site. Go to networksolutions.com and click WHOIS and enter the offender’s web site without “http” or “www.” You’ll find the Internet Service Provider (ISP) who hosts the site. Then write to the host using strong terms and authoritative voice complaining about the copyright infringement by one of their customers.

Since the Digital Millennium Copyright Act passed, internet service providers are expected to remove material from user’s web sites that appears to constitute copyright infringement. ISPs are usually very quick to pull the offending website down since they don’t want to run into legal problems that would jeopardize their business. This should also work if the website they host is selling a video that infringed your copyright.

You can also often find the owner of the site and their contact information on whois.com. If you do, contact them directly. If they are uncooperative, you may have to seek legal advice. As a first step, you may want to look into the cost of having a lawyer write a strongly worded cease and desist letter. For an hour of their time, it may be worth it. If you’ve ever received one of these, it’s pretty ominous and scary enough for most people to stop. (I can attest to that since I’ve been on that side too when using the words “Jane and Tarzan” on an art print. Edward Rice Burroughs estate sent us the letter and we quickly renamed it, “Jungle Love” and they were satisfied.)

3) Search eBay, Craigslist and other main auction sites for illegally copied DVDs and videos. Look for DVDs on the same topic as yours. If you find someone selling exact copies of yours – and he is selling them as brand new and not just selling his copy for a little extra cash – eBay has a program called the Verified Rights (VeRO Owner program where you may request the removal of listings on eBay that offer items, or contain materials that infringe on your rights. At Craigslist, you can report abuse at abuse@craigslist.org.

One word of caution: Think twice about selling anything to China and other Asian countries where it is highly likely your product will be copied and resold. Because they know we can’t police it that well, copying is rampant.

With all this said, don’t let your fear of copyright infringement keep you from producing and selling your own work. It may not happen to you and you would have missed out on months or years of sales and good income.


3 Responses to “Copyright Infringement: How To Protect Yourself”


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  1. […] online videos introduces many issues, such as how to protect your video from theft, how to transact a sale, bandwidth, storage, redundancy, distribution networks, delivery formats […]

  2. […] Copyright protection and ownership is a big concern for the special interest video producer and publisher and one area where we field a lot of questions from our subscribers.  Here is a recent question from one of our subscribers regarding this issue: […]

  3. […] If you are starting out with zero budget, that may be your only short-term option but as business grows you are going to want to step it up a notch. Here are some things to think about. Bandwidth And Storage Shopping carts like the one we use, 1ShoppingCart, allow you to sell digital download products online, but delivery is restricted to 10 mb. This is fine for eBooks or audio products but too small for any video over 2 to 3 minutes in length. If you want to offer your video in different codecs or you have several titles then this won’t work for you. There is also the concern that once they download your video, it is not protected and so makes you vulnerable to piracy. […]


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