We’ve talked a lot about how to protect your content, but until now, we haven’t touched on the other side of the coin–what to do if you get a cease and desist letter.
It might seem counterintuitive that a content creator would ever steal someone else’s content, but every blogger has a story about being new in the industry, not really knowing how things work, and blithely slapping a Getty Images photo from a Google Image search on their blog post.
People make mistakes, and the digital content arena can be a minefield. If you get a cease and desist letter, here’s what to do.
Step 1: Own up to it.
There’s no shortcut around this one. You can’t hide from a cease and desist notice and hope it goes away–you need to deal with it head on.
Big things to remember:
It doesn’t matter if it was an accident.
It’s not their job to educate you on copyright law or where to find fair-use content. As far as they’re concerned, you stole their content. Don’t waste their time with “But I didn’t mean to”s–if you’re polite and apologetic and cooperative, they’ll understand you’re not a professional pirate.
Get in touch with them and see what can be done.
If you immediately take down the photo you used, is that enough, or do they (understandably) want you to pay for the six months it was on your blog for free? If you have a giant blog audience that’s compatible with their audience, could you strike an affiliate marketing deal?
Understand that you’re probably going to have to pay something.
This is the bed you made, and there’s no use trying to weasel out of it. That being said, if it was a legitimate mistake and you genuinely do not have the money they’re asking for, be honest about that. You may be able to work something out, even if that “something” is a payment plan.
Step 2: Avoid making the same mistake in the future.
So you’ve stepped up and made things right. The nightmare is over! But how can you prevent it from happening again in the future?
Tip #1: Only use your own content.
This is the most time-consuming and most foolproof way to know for SURE that you’re well within your copyright bounds. And these days, with iPhone cameras at such a high level and online editing software like Canva freely available, it’s easier than ever to make your own digital content.
Tip #2: Use content with a Creative Commons license.
Content with a Creative Commons license is free to use, remix, flip, and share without a price tag. While attribution isn’t always legally required, it’s still a good-neighbor move to link to the creator when you use their work.
Also, if you’re looking to use something commercially, make sure the Creative Commons content you’re interested in allows commercial use. Some do, some don’t; so check the fine print.
Some places to find Creative Commons content:
Tip #3: If you want to use copyrighted content, license it.
Straightforward, right? If you want to use someone else’s copyrighted content on your site, you have to pay for it. Licensing is a more complex topic we can get into another time, but the gist of it is–get in touch with the creator and get written permission before you use it. If you write to them and they don’t respond? Go back to tips 1 and 2.
Really, the core of this is–practice good business practices! Be a good neighbor. That will get you a thousand times further than taking shortcuts.