After dedicating your time, money, and other resources in creating a piece of creative work, the last thing you’d wish is to have someone else use it without your express authorization. And that’s the concept behind copyright.
What’s A Copyright?
A copyright protects the original owner of an idea from having other people reproduce, recreate, or own their works without their permission.
About Copyright Trolling
Now, picture this – you believe you are the bonafide owner of the print design or an online publication. But one day, someone suddenly lays claim to your work. You think they’re bluffing but no; they’re deadly serious. Before you know it, they’re threatening to bring a copyright infringement lawsuit against you.
That’s what copyright trolling is all about. A copyright troll is the owner of a copyright who threatens people with litigation for using their copyrighted material. The primary motivation behind copyright trolling is the license fee. Over the recent past, the trend of copyright trolling has been on a steady rise, so much that some people have dubbed it ‘legalized extortion.’
So, how do you call out copyright infringement trolls? Read on to find out.
Defending Yourself against Copyright Infringement Claims
1. Do Some Background Check
The first line of defense against copyright trolls is to avoid using copyrighted material in the first place. That calls for a rigorous background check to ensure that the content you wish to use isn’t already under someone else’s ownership.
Let’s assume you’re trying to start a company and are looking for a killer company logo. You’ll probably search for popular logo designs online. Before you choose a logo, do a background search to be sure no other company lays claim to the design.
Some people would opt for the easy way out – taking a logo and tweaking it a bit, ostensibly to make it appear more original. Experts strongly discourage this approach, as it still doesn’t guarantee originality. If you can, reach out to the owner of the copyrighted material and seek their consent before using their material. Better yet, you can engage creative graphic designers to help craft a unique logo for you.
2. Do Not Ignore the Demands from Copyright Trolls
Most copyright trolls will reach out to you when they’re 100% certain that they have a valid case. It’s easy to dismiss them as busybodies. But if you care about the reputation of your business, then you don’t want to ignore their demands, however outrageous.
First, establish whether their claims are valid and if not, don’t bother replying to their emails. If their allegations are genuine, assess the rationality of their demands. It’s important to do all these before responding to the troll.
Remember that the first response they receive from you will determine whether they will continue with their extortion or look for a more vulnerable target elsewhere.
If their demands are reasonable and within your means, then meet them. If they aren’t but the troll is persistent, consider lawyering up.
3. Don’t Assume That You Can Use Any Online Publication For Free
The fact that content is freely accessible online doesn’t make it freely available for anyone to use. Many of the publications that you see online have been copyrighted in some way. Therefore, you’ll always require some consent from the owner to use them. And this applies both to commercial and non-profit organizations.
If you’re running a not-for-profit organization, such as a charity center, you may be subjected to lower copyright license fees compared to owners of commercial businesses. But that doesn’t give you the right to use copyrighted works without notifying the owner.
At times, you may be tempted to use copyrighted content, hoping that the original owner may never know. For instance, you may consider using the patented product names of a company that has since wound up its operations. The wrong move, as those names may have been invented by a third-party who never ceded all their copyright rights to the company in question.
4. Get an Indemnification Clause
Basically, an indemnification clause is an undertaking by another party to meet the damages you may incur if they do something that compromises your business in any way. In essence, an indemnification clause excludes you from all liability.
But who should be a party to this clause? Let’s paint a picture. If you own a blog and outsource your writing work, you may need to sign an indemnification clause with your writers as part of ensuring all their content is 100% original.
With such a clause, you know you’re safe even if a copyright troll comes up and lays claim to some of your published content, such as images, videos, or audio. Even if the troll wins the suit, it will not be you but your writer to take care of all the damages. Needless to mention, always ensure the clause appears in writing.
5. Register Your Work
This is something you should never skimp on, especially if you’re running a commercial business. After designing or creating anything, apply copyright registration on it.
Having your creative work registered doesn’t only protect you from copyright trolls, it also ensures that you too can sue for infringement.
Also, remember that copyright trolls are fairly enlightened people with a profound grasp of copyright laws. Once you can provide them the proof of registration of your work, they will immediately drop the claims.
Though registration takes some time, it’s worth the risk. Besides, the fact that your copyright registration is pending still gives you a lot of leverage over copyright infringement claims
And there goes our guide on how to safeguard your business and reputation from blackmail by copyright trolls. Remember that when it comes to copyright trolling, no one is immune. Therefore, the best time to insure yourself is now.