Los Angeles Copyright Lawyers
Your intellectual property can be incredibly valuable, and copyright is an important part of intellectual property law. Copyright applies to all kinds of original works, such as books, movies, screenplays, songs, paintings, drawings, software code, and even websites. In the context of a legal claim, copyright is most likely to apply when the author of one of these kinds of creative works learns that their IP rights have been infringed by a competitor. If you are a victim of copyright infringement, or if you are being accused of copyright infringement, it is imperative that you speak with knowledgeable Los Angeles copyright lawyers who understand this area of the law.
The L.A. copyright attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP have experience assisting both plaintiffs and defendants in copyright infringement cases in a variety of industries, including the entertainment industry. The law firm’s main office is located in Los Angeles, and we have experience with Copyright claims in New York and California. Contact us now about your copyright case.
How Do You Copyright Your Original Works and Protect Against Unauthorized Use?
The Copyright Act of 1976 explicitly grants legal protection for “original works of authorship” that have been fixed in a “tangible medium of expression.” This means that copyright protection applies to a wide range of works whose ideas have been expressed through words, pictures, or sounds. Copyright is similar to other intellectual property rights, such as trademark or patent, in that it provides individuals and businesses with a way to protect their unique works against infringement or unauthorized appropriation by others. For eligible works created after 1978, copyright protection extends for the life of the owner plus an additional 70 years. For works with corporate authors (e.g., the author of the work was an employee of a corporation and it was a work for hire), copyright protection lasts for either 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever term is shorter.
There is a misconception that a person actually has to register the copyright, or that they must include a copyright symbol (©) on their work, before it can be copyright protected. The reality is that the moment you created your original work, it was copyrighted for most legal purposes. Although filing for official copyright registration can provide some additional protection, such as a public record of the copyright that might discourage others from ripping off your work, the simple fact is that your work is still protected from unauthorized use even if it is not officially registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Although you will need to register your copyright before attempting to enforce it and filing a lawsuit, the registration application can be submitted after you discover the unlawful copyright exploitation. Similarly, your work does not need to be published in order to establish ownership and qualify for copyright protection.
What Is “Copyright Infringement”?
As the copyright holder over your work, you have the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, publicly perform, or display that work, as well as the right to make derivative works. Although you own the copyright to the original works that you created, it is still possible that someone might attempt to exploit your work without permission. When this happens, it is known as “copyright infringement.” It is important to understand that a copyright violation can occur even when the violation does not involve an identical copy or reproduction of your work. As long as there is a “substantial similarity” between the works, courts have typically found that a misappropriation occurred.
Here are a few common examples of copyright infringement:
- Photographs being used on a website or in a catalog that sells commercial products.
- My original drawings or sketches were reproduced in a book, magazine, or other commercial publication.
- A competing clothing company is using my original designs.
- A jeweler is selling jewelry that was based on my original design.
- A toy manufacturer is using my toy design for their product.
- Computer source code that I wrote is being used for another company’s video game.
- Original content that I created for my commercial website was copied and then used by a competing website.
Experienced L.A. Copyright Attorney Can Help You Stop Unauthorized Use & Get Compensated for Damages
Since many different types of creative works can be infringed upon, the copyright violation in your case may be very different from other cases. When it comes to enforcing your copyright, it’s crucial to be represented by a skilled L.A. copyright attorney who has experience with all kinds of IP litigation and who knows how to best proceed with your copyright infringement dispute because damages for copyright infringement may involve large amounts of money.
Calculating Damages in a Copyright Case
Assuming you win your copyright case at trial, the judge would then need to determine damages. This is the amount of money that you are owed as compensation for the copyright infringement. It is not easy to calculate actual damages in copyright infringement matters, however, which is why courts often rely on statutory damages: an amount stipulated in the statute for each copyright violation. Depending on the type of violation, it’s possible that you could be awarded up to $30,000 for each infringed work. Additionally, if it can be shown that the defendant willfully infringed – meaning they either knew about or recklessly disregarded the existence of a copyright – then the cap on damages rises to $150,000 for each work that was infringed.
It is also worth noting that a copyright ruling can include an order requiring the losing party to pay attorneys’ fees and court costs, which could result in a substantially higher financial burden for the losing side. This is yet another reason why you will want to explore all available legal options with a knowledgeable Los Angeles copyright litigator before moving ahead with your claim.
Copyright Defense: Responding to an Accusation of Copyright Infringement
It’s possible that you find yourself on the other side of a copyright infringement case: needing to defend against an allegation that you violated someone else’s copyright. Many times, these claims are brought by “copyright trolls” who send DMCA notices or copyright infringement letters in the hopes of quickly cashing in with a settlement offer. For example, if you posted a reproduction of a photograph on your website, or on your personal social media accounts like Instagram or Facebook, you might have received an email or letter demanding that you take down the photo and pay the copyright holder a few thousand dollars. The copyright demand letter also may have threatened costly legal action if you fail to promptly pay.
The best way to fight back against a meritless copyright infringement claim is to have a qualified copyright lawyer on your side and prepared to raise strong defenses on your behalf, such as fair use, parody, and other less known defenses. Before responding to the copyright violation letter, you should speak with an attorney who has experience dealing with copyright trolls. The Tauler Smith LLP legal team understands the rules set forth by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which is one reason why we’ve been able to win copyright lawsuits that reach trial, as well as stopping frivolous copyright lawsuits from getting that far in the first place. If you’ve been accused of a copyright violation, our attorneys know how to protect your business, your website, and your social media brand.
Southern California Copyright Attorneys Who Know How to Win Your Intellectual Property Dispute
At Tauler Smith LLP, our Southern California copyright attorneys are highly respected by our peers in the legal industry. We are also feared by opposing lawyers because they know that our legal team prepares every case with one thought in mind: winning at trial, if necessary. Our “take no prisoners” approach to copyright disputes gives our clients a huge advantage during settlement negotiations. You can read about some of our firm’s successful settlements & verdicts here.
The Tauler Smith LLP office is located in Downtown Los Angeles, and we represent clients throughout Los Angeles County and surrounding regions in California, including Hollywood, West Hollywood, Culver City, Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Pacific Palisades, Pasadena, Santa Monica, and Venice.
Schedule a Free Consultation with the Los Angeles Copyright Attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP
Whether you are a victim of copyright infringement who needs help enforcing your copyright, or you have been wrongly accused of violating someone else’s copyright and need help building a strong defense, you should speak with an intellectual property lawyer as soon as possible. The experienced Los Angeles copyright attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP represent authors, artists, filmmakers, musicians, photographers, models, and social media influencers in IP disputes.