After months of hard work and little-to-no sleep, you debuted a gorgeous line of witty, clever illustrations. Congratulations! But now, you’re staring dry-mouthed at some quirky retail site. Staring at your design on a pin, sold in a pack of 3 for a tidy $15. My intellectual property was stolen, you think. What do I do now?
Assuming you’ve already registered the copyrights for your carefully-crafted designs, here are the simple steps to follow to make sure you get your due.
Step 1: Document the theft
Before you can do anything, you’ll need to gather as much evidence as you can. That way, when you say “Hey, you stole my stuff,” you’ll have proof to back you up.
Put together a document with the following:
- Screenshots of the webpage(s) selling your designs
- URL(s) of the webpage(s) involved
- Date(s) you accessed the webpage(s)
Step 2: Send a DMCA Takedown Notice
Once you have your evidence documented, it’s time to write and send a DMCA takedown notice.
For more information on that particular process, we’ve got a whole blog post over here. But the gist of a DMCA takedown notice includes:
- Which content are you accusing the receiver of “stealing”? (i.e. “This is my illustration, ‘Sad Ice Cream Cone.’”)
- What evidence do you have that they’re infringing on your copyright? (The evidence you just put together.)
- Did you give permission? (No, or you wouldn’t be sending this notice.)
- How can they contact you to straighten all this out? (Ideally, phone, email, and mailing address.)
- Is this notice accurate? (Yes–and this is covered further in our DMCA Takedown Notice Template below.)
To make this even easier, we have a free DMCA takedown notice that you can use to your heart’s content. Just click here to download the PDF!
Step 3A: Sue for statutory damages
Once you’ve sent out a DMCA Takedown Notice, the person that swiped your intellectual property could do any number of things. The ideal outcome is that they’d apologize and take it down.
But what if they won’t take it down? Or, what if you decide you want to sue for statutory damages?
If someone steals your content (and they know they’re doing it), and a court finds them guilty of willful infringement, the damages you can reap range between $30,000 to $150,000 per registration, plus attorney’s fees.
If this is the road you want to walk down–and, if your copyright was registered before the theft, it’s a road you’re totally welcome to walk down–then you’ll want to hire a copyright lawyer.
Step 3B: Set up an affiliate program
There’s one other thing to consider; what if the site that stole your work has a big audience, with a ton of customers? Wouldn’t it be great if that could become an extra revenue stream for you?
That can happen–if they become a legitimate affiliate.
If you don’t already have experience in this area of management, you’ll likely need some lawyers to get involved, but the gist of an affiliate program is that, for every sale they make, they’ll keep a small portion of the revenue and kick you (the copyright owner) the rest.
This way, you get access to their paying customers, and they get to make some money off your brilliance. Everybody wins! (Ideally.)
If someone steals your work, don’t panic–there are definite steps you can take. And if you’re reading this and you’re worried someone might steal your work, go register your copyrights! It takes 30 minutes, max, and you’ll rest easy knowing your intellectual property is safely locked down.