Copyright Cease & Desist Letters

Responding to Copyright Cease and Desist Letters

Copyright Cease & Desist Letters

One of the most common tactics used by copyright trolls is sending a cease and desist letter demanding that you stop using “their” intellectual property, as well as insisting that you owe them a substantial amount of money for any use that has already occurred. These letters are ostensibly supposed to put you on notice about a copyright violation, but they are often abused by individuals and companies who are simply looking to make a quick buck by threatening a frivolous copyright lawsuit. Responding to copyright cease and desist letters usually requires a solid understanding of intellectual property law, which is why it is imperative that you speak with an experienced California copyright lawyer before communicating with the other party in your copyright infringement case. An attorney can draft an effective response to the letter, as well as ensuring that you don’t make any damaging admissions that might be used against you later if the case goes to trial.

For more information about how to respond to copyright cease and desist letters, keep reading this blog.

What Does “Cease and Desist” Mean?

The legal definition of “cease and desist” is to prohibit a person, company, or other entity from starting and/or continuing a particular action. Basically, the sender of a cease and desist letter wants the recipient to stop doing something. In the context of a copyright infringement claim, the objective of a cease & desist letter is to get the alleged infringer to bring an end to their unlawful use of a copyrighted product or service. For example, if you are accused of publishing a photograph on your website or social media account without authorization to do so, the photograph’s copyright holder may send you a DMCA notice alleging that you violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and demanding that you take down the photo by a specified deadline. The letter might provide information about the sender’s copyright registration, as well as screenshots of the alleged unauthorized use by the recipient of the demand letter.

Most cease and desist letters include some kind of warning – either implied or explicit – of legal action if you fail to stop the conduct and/or refuse to compensate the original copyright holder for your use of their intellectual property. This last part is what a copyright troll is likely to focus on: getting paid a few thousand dollars. Moreover, since they are often represented by aggressive intellectual property attorneys, many copyright trolls are able to effectively use the threat of a lawsuit to get the recipient to settle the case quickly.

The Best Response to a Cease & Desist Letter Accusing You of Copyright Infringement

Since a cease and desist letter typically comes from an individual or company and it precedes litigation, its “demands” are more like “requests” that you are not legally required to respond to or comply with. Only when a court issues a cease and desist order that enjoins your use will you actually have to stop using the intellectual property. But a strong response to the cease & desist letter may be your safest course of action. The reality is that many copyright cease and desist letters are sent by copyright trolls attempting to intimidate and bully the recipient into paying the sender in order to avoid costly litigation. Even if you have a right to use the intellectual property, such as a fair use exception for non-commercial use of an image or video, the threat of legal action can make it difficult to fight back against a copyright troll with vast financial resources. That’s why your initial response to the cease and desist letter is so important: it may be your best chance to stop the IP litigation dead in its tracks and avoid the need for costly legal action.

The best answer to a cease and desist letter is usually one that convinces the other party to drop their claim. You may want to point out any facts favorable to your case, including any copyright exceptions that justify your IP use, statute of limitations issues, or the existence of a licensing agreement that allows for your use of the original work. Additionally, having your response drafted by an attorney will send a powerful message to the other party that you are not going to simply back down and pay them. If you respond to the letter on your own, and without the assistance of a qualified lawyer, you might not be taken seriously.

IP Licensing Agreements

In some copyright cases, the sender of a cease and desist letter is looking to enter into a licensing agreement where the recipient can avoid litigation by agreeing to pay a fee to the copyright owner for licensed use of the intellectual property. Depending on the circumstances, an intellectual property attorney may be able to assist with those licensing negotiations so that you can minimize liability and still retain your ability to use the image, video, or other type of intellectual property at issue.

Contact the Los Angeles Copyright Attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP

Whether you’ve received a cease and desist letter alleging copyright infringement, trademark infringement, patent infringement, or any other type of intellectual property violation, you need to speak with a qualified attorney immediately. The Los Angeles copyright lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP understand the nuances of IP law, and we have experience dealing with copyright trolls. We are prepared to help you draft a strong response to the copyright cease and desist letter.

Call the Tauler Smith legal team today at 310-590-3927 or submit the online contact form.

Best Copyright Infringement Defenses

5 Best Defenses Against Copyright Infringement Claims

Best Copyright Infringement Defenses

Original creative works can provide valuable revenue streams to their authors. That’s one reason that copyright can be used to protect original works in certain tangible mediums (e.g., movies, books, photographs, and computer software) against unauthorized use. Unfortunately, copyright trolls often attempt to take advantage of the law by pressuring others into cash settlements. When this happens, the party on the receiving end of a copyright demand letter will need to respond immediately – or risk a costly lawsuit. The experienced Los Angeles copyright lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP can help you mount a strong and vigorous copyright defense.

To learn more about the 5 best defenses against copyright infringement claims, keep reading this blog.

Responding to DMCA Notices from Copyright Trolls

A lot of copyright infringement claims are brought by copyright trolls. These are people who strategically sue individuals and businesses with the goal of pressuring the defendant into quickly settling the case in order to avoid expensive litigation. For example, a copyright troll might send a DMCA notice to a website owner or social media influencer alleging that they violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by publishing an unauthorized reproduction of an image, video, or text.

Whether it’s a copyright troll, or perhaps someone with more merit bringing a copyright or other type of intellectual property claim against you, most claims will start with a copyright infringement letter or takedown notice. How you respond to the initial claim will likely determine the next steps, which could include negotiating a settlement with the other party or contesting the copyright claim in federal court.

What Are the Most Common Defenses Available in Copyright Infringement Cases?

If the case does go beyond settlement negotiations and eventually reaches the litigation stage, it may be necessary to raise a strong defense at trial. These are some of the most common defenses available in copyright infringement disputes:

Defense #1: There is no substantial similarity between the original work and the new work.

One of the main tests used by courts to determine whether copyright infringement has occurred is the substantial similarity test. A work can only be found to have exploited another work’s copyright if both works are “substantially similar.” This means that, despite any superficial similarities, the two works are so strikingly similar that the second work could only have been copied from the first work.

Defense #2: Use of the work was licensed.

Even if you did not create the original work in question, you may still have a right to use, distribute, reproduce, or perform that work if you secured a copyright licensing agreement. Depending on the terms of the IP transfer, the licensed use might not have constituted an infringement of the copyright.

Defense #3: The fair use doctrine applies.

The Copyright Law of the United States explicitly provides for exceptions when copyrighted material is being used for certain purposes, such as news reporting, research, scholarship, commentary, and criticism. Courts use a balancing test to determine whether a particular use of the work constitutes a “fair use”:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is for commercial purposes.
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work, such as whether the work has already been in the public domain or whether there is a public interest in ensuring that the work is available to everyone.
  3. The amount or substantiality of the portion used, such as when a website quotes a few sentences from a much longer publication.
  4. The effect of the particular use on the work’s value.

Judges typically determine whether a specific use constitutes “fair use” by looking closely at the precise facts and circumstances of the individual case. The reality is that two similar uses of an identical work could yield entirely different results in court. That’s why it is crucial for anyone looking to raise this defense in a copyright infringement lawsuit to have an experienced copyright attorney on their side.

Defense #4: The plaintiff does not own the copyright.

In order to sue for damages, the copyright troll must be the “owner” or “exclusive licensee” of the copyrighted work. Often, copyright trolls send letters demanding money (and sometimes file lawsuits) when they are not the owner or the exclusive licensee. Tauler Smith LLP has won copyright cases on this basis, and the knowledgeable L.A. copyright lawyers at Tauler Smith can get to the bottom of who owns the images in question.

Defense #5: The statute of limitations has expired.

The statute of limitations in most copyright infringement claims is three (3) years. However, there is some question as to when the clock starts ticking on the statute of limitations. For instance, courts have held that the statute of limitations restarts after each new violation, meaning that a copyright owner could delay filing suit as long as they are only pursuing damages from the last three (3) years. Additionally, most courts have ruled that a copyright owner must first discover the violation before the statute of limitations begins to run.

Contact the Los Angeles Copyright Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP Today

The damages in a copyright infringement lawsuit could be substantial, which is why you need to act immediately when you are first notified of an alleged violation. Your first step should be to speak with one of the Los Angeles copyright lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP. Our legal team has experience responding to copyright claims on behalf of our clients and protecting them against copyright trolls.

If you’ve received a copyright demand letter, call us today at 310-590-3927. You can also fill out the contact form to schedule a consultation.

Bitcoin

BitClout Raises Intellectual Property Concerns

Bitcoin

With the Bitcoin and NFT bubbles continuing to grow, a new crypto-based company has hit the market looking to capitalize on the investment wave. Instead of investing in a business or product, BitClout offers users a new investment option that is described by its owner as a “new type of social network that lets [users] speculate on people and posts with real money.” Backed by some of Silicon Valley’s biggest investors, like Sequoia Capital and Winklevoss Capital, BitClout’s creators hope that it is poised to have a bright future.

However, BitClout is not without controversy over some of its current business practices, some of which may raise intellectual property concerns. To learn more about the possible legal issues posed by BitClout, keep reading this blog.

What Is BitClout?

BitClout users deposit Bitcoin into the platform in exchange for BitClout currency, or creator coins. The value of these coins is based on the reputation or popularity of the celebrity profile the user chooses to invest in. The more popular the profile, the more valuable the creator coin. In theory, if there is a new indie band that a user believes will break into the mainstream, the user can purchase the band’s creator coin now while the cost is low; as the band’s popularity increases, so will the value of the coins the user has purchased.

While users can deposit BitCoin in exchange for BitClout currency, there is currently no way for a user to cash out should they want to do so. The founder of BitClout hopes to have a currency exchange in the future but has no specifics on how or when they will be able to offer a cash-out option. BitClout appears to be a volatile investment, offering the potential for a quick rise and equally quick fall in investment value, with no way for users to cut losses and cash out.

Legal Issues Posed by BitClout

There have been questions raised about the legality of NFTs, cryptocurrency, and related digital assets on the blockchain. One point of controversy surrounding BitClout is their aggressive growth strategy, in which their network was pre-populated with profiles from the top 15,000 public Twitter profiles. Influencers like Kim Kardashian and Elon Musk had profiles created without signing up for or agreeing to the platform. While the founder of BitClout says this was done to prevent user impersonation or handle squatting, the company is currently using the private information of celebrities and influencers without their expressed consent.

One influencer, Brandon Curtis, has already served BitClout founder Nader Al-Naji with a cease-and-desist letter for using his personal information without consent. Curtis is arguing that it is the individual’s right to profit from his or her own identity, and to choose what organizations they collaborate with. Depending on the outcome of Curtis’ intellectual property case, it is possible that many of the other pre-populated profiles on BitClout will also seek to be removed from the platform.

Contact the California Intellectual Property Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP

Tauler Smith LLP is a Los Angeles law firm that represents clients in intellectual property disputes, including cases involving copyright infringement. If you believe that you are a victim of a copyright violation, or if you have been accused of a copyright violation, our experienced IP attorneys can help you. Call or email us today to discuss your legal options.

DMCA Takedown Notices

Using Section 512(f) to Fight DMCA Takedown Notices

DMCA Takedown NoticesCopyright trolls have become a serious problem in recent years, with more and more people using outdated copyright laws to take advantage of an internet and social media landscape that is constantly changing. Using a decades-old law that pre-dated YouTube (let alone hundreds of thousands of fan sites on Instagram), the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) allows anyone to send automated notices to social media sites claiming that they own copyrights on content used by certain accounts on the sites. The objective of malicious DMCA trolling is typically to shut down the victim’s social media account. This is most commonly done because of personal jealousy, animosity, and/or retribution. Unfortunately, social media sites and their users are often powerless to do anything about it.

Could there be a new tool in the arsenal of copyright lawyers who look to aggressively defend individuals against fraudulent DMCA takedown notices? Keep reading this blog to find out.

What Is Section 512(f) of the DMCA?

The drafters of the DMCA statute wanted to prevent abuse of the system, which is meant to protect legitimate copyrights. So, they included a subsection called “Section 512(f),” which allows victims to sue if they are served with a DMCA takedown notice that is fraudulent.

Until recently, however, this provision in the law has not been put to good use by copyright defense lawyers. Since the DMCA was enacted in 1998, Section 512(f) has been only a “weak counterpressure on sending DMCA notices,” according to many commentators. In fact, one leading writer stated bluntly, “Section 512(f) of the DMCA is effectively dead.”

Hope for the Future of Section 512(f) as a Tool to Fight Copyright Trolls

Despite the long history of Section 512(f) being largely ineffective at stopping fraudulent DMCA takedown notices from copyright trolls, a recent order from the Central District Court of California has breathed new life into Section 512(f) and provided some measure of hope that victims of DMCA fraud can make dishonest people pay for their misdeeds.

Contact the California Copyright Defense Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP Today

Have you been served with a DMCA takedown notice? The Los Angeles copyright defense lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP can help you. Contact us anytime by calling 310-590-3927, or by filling out the contact form.

Instagram Copyright Lawsuits

Can You Get Sued for Posting a Picture of Yourself on Instagram?

 

Instagram Copyright Lawsuits

The popularity of social media has exploded in recent years, with just about everyone having at least one type of social media account. Whether it’s Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or some other platform, the reality is that social media accounts and interactions are pretty much unavoidable these days. Unfortunately, as more and more people use social media, there is also a greater chance of legal liability because intellectual property rights may be affected. Even paparazzi are filing copyright lawsuits against celebrities who post photos of themselves on Instagram. One question that comes up more than any other in this area of law is: Can you get sued for posting a picture of yourself on Instagram?

To find out whether you can be sued merely for posting a photograph of yourself on Instagram or other social media platforms, keep reading.

Copyright Troll Lawsuits Target Instagram Account Holders

There has been a proliferation of bad-faith lawsuits in California and other states where lawyers claim that the account holders are violating copyright laws. These copyright trolls are typically looking for a quick cash settlement, and they have little intention of ever taking the case to trial. If you are not careful when using social media, you could find yourself named as the defendant in a potentially expensive civil suit. That’s because copyright troll attorneys who scour the internet looking for supposed “copyright violations” won’t just limit their focus to actors, models, and other celebrities who post photographs of themselves on Instagram. The truth is that anyone who uses social media is at risk.

Copyright Troll Richard Liebowitz Sues Amy Schumer, Gigi Hadid, and Kim Kardashian

In the last three months, celebrities Amy Schumer, Gigi Hadid, and Kim Kardashian have all been sued for posting photos of themselves to their Instagram accounts. In each case, the photographer behind the photos in question has alleged that they are the owner and copyright holder of the media, and that the subjects of the photos have no right to post them. Richard Liebowitz, attorney for the plaintiffs in all cases, has filed complaints stating that, “One cannot use photographs without the photographer’s permission, even for social media websites.” The lawsuits involve DMCA takedown notices, as well a demand for monetary damages.

In the lawsuit against Amy Schumer, the plaintiff’s attorney claims that the photographs in question were copyrighted, even though he does not declare the date of the copyright. A search of records maintained by the United States Copyright Office shows that the photographs were copyrighted on February 8, 2020, which is three months after Schumer allegedly infringed on the copyright by posting the photos.

What Is the Best Way to Respond to a Copyright Troll?


If you’ve been accused of copyright infringement for posting a photograph on Instagram, your first step should be to speak with an experienced intellectual property lawyer who knows how to raise strong defenses against copyright lawsuits. An attorney who understands federal copyright laws can closely examine the facts of the case and identify problems with the original complaint.

For example, the complaint against Amy Schumer states that the plaintiff is “the sole owner of all right, title, and interest” in the photographs. However, if the photo was previously shared on a social media platform by the copyright owner, this may not be the case. Instagram’s terms of use agreement states that when a user shares, posts, or uploads content that is covered by intellectual property rights, they grant to the social media platform “a non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to host, use, distribute, modify, run, copy, publicly perform or display, translate, and create derivate works of the content.” As such, any plaintiff who posts a photo or video on Instagram is only a non-exclusive licensee of the work, and their legal exposure is probably limited.

Contact the Los Angeles Copyright Defense Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP

Courts have been receptive to the Instagram copyright case defense, but the issue is not usually litigated because most copyright defendants opt to settle promptly and avoid a trial. If you have been accused of copyright infringement for posting content on your Instagram, Facebook, or other social media account, you need to speak with an attorney immediately. The Los Angeles copyright lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP have experience fighting back against copyright trolls and winning cases before they go to trial.

Call us at 310-590-3927, or send an email to discuss your case.

Richard Liebowitz Copyright Claims

Richard Liebowitz Refiles and Dismisses Copyright Claim

Richard Liebowitz Copyright Claims

When a plaintiff brings a copyright claim or any other type of lawsuit, there has to be some basis for the legal action. Unfortunately, some lawyers choose to use the threat of a civil suit as leverage to force a cash settlement, even when the case has little or no merit. Courts do not look kindly on this questionable tactic, and they can punish both the plaintiff and their attorney in these cases. Serial copyright litigant Richard Liebowitz recently found this out the hard way when a federal court awarded attorney’s fees against him for his practice of refiling and dismissing copyright claims without prejudice. This case was a good example of why it’s so important to be represented by a skilled attorney who can provide an aggressive defense against copyright claims.

To learn more about the best way to respond to an illegitimate copyright claim, keep reading this blog.

Attorney Richard Liebowitz Accused of Being a Copyright Troll

Richard Liebowitz has been called a “copyright troll” by federal judges based on the volume of lawsuits he has filed. These lawsuits often involve flimsy copyright claims alleging that the defendant has infringed on the plaintiff’s IP rights by publishing a photo or video. In a lot of these cases, the plaintiff may have no intention of actually going to trial. Instead, they simply want to pressure the defendant with the threat of costly litigation in state or federal court so that the defendant will pay a cash settlement. This is not how the law is supposed to work.

Richard Liebowitz Loses PopMatters Copyright Claim

In Glen Craig v. PopMatters Media, Inc. (N.D. Ill.), the defendants raised objections to personal jurisdiction and venue in the Southern District of Illinois. Richard Liebowitz, the attorney representing the plaintiff, then voluntarily dismissed the action and refiled in the Northern District of Illinois. The defendants then filed a motion for attorney’s fees in the first action, as was their right under the law.

The following day, Liebowitz filed a notice of voluntary dismissal in the second action, presumably so that he would not be ordered to pay attorney’s fees in the first action. The defendants again moved for attorney’s fees, and Liebowitz opposed by arguing that no attorney’s fees should be awarded because the dismissal was “without prejudice.” The court did not find Liebowitz’s argument persuasive: in an order dated March 23, 2020, the court granted the defendants’ motion for attorney’s fees against Liebowitz and his client. The court reasoned that “[t]he privilege of dismissing a federal suit without prejudice to refiling may be used only once,” and Liebowitz “used that privilege when he dismissed the Southern District case, so his dismissal of this case operated as a with-prejudice dismissal, an adjudication on the merits.”

Tauler Smith LLP Has History of Defeating Copyright Trolls

The PopMatters order marks yet another legal setback for Richard Liebowitz, who now faces the increased specter of having to pay attorney’s fee awards to the defendants. Tauler Smith LLP is a California law firm that focuses on intellectual property claims, and we have a history of winning Liebowitz’ copyright claims. In fact, our experienced Los Angeles copyright lawyers have previously argued to the Southern District of New York that an award of attorney’s fees in cases brought by Liebowitz would serve dual objectives: (1) protecting our clients’ rights in defense of a dishonest copyright claim, and (2) deterring copyright trolls like Richard Liebowitz from their unrepentant abuse of judicial resources.

The truth is that the U.S. Copyright Act was not created to protect the rights of mercenaries like Richard Liebowitz who threaten law-abiding website operators with DMCA takedown notices and copyright demand letters. The idea behind the federal law was to provide legitimate copyright holders with the ability to file a lawsuit when their intellectual property rights have, in fact, been infringed.

Contact the Los Angeles Copyright Defense Attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP

If you have been sued by Richard Liebowitz or any other copyright trolls, the Los Angeles copyright defense attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP can help you defend your claims. Call 310-590-3927 or email us to schedule a free consultation.