What can you do when someone illegally uses a copyrighted image?

People say you should never judge a book by its cover, but most people still do. In fact, visual appeal is critical to any product, service or brand. Careful attention to detail, layout, colors and more factors are important, because appearance can directly impact how consumers perceive your product, advertisement or company.

Your company likely invests a significant amount of money in advertising, design and similar art services. Whether you use custom photography or computer-drawn graphics for your business, images and artwork can represent substantial costs that help your product and brand stand out from the competition. If another company is using your logo, advertising copy, photographs, art or layout to sell products, you may need to take action to defend your copyrighted materials and company.

What do you have to do to copyright an original work?

Any unique creation, from a photograph to an article, receives copyright protection under federal law in the United States. In fact, while you can register your copyright to protect your company, any original work someone creates receives copyright protection the moment it is created or published. In other words, even if you don't take the extra step of registering for copyright protection, the law still applies to the original works your company creates or commissions.

Registration is always a smart step to take, however, because it makes it much simpler to enforce your copyright when someone violates it. Thankfully, even if you don't register for copyright protection immediately, you can do so as soon as you realize another person or business has infringed on your copyright.

Why do some companies violate copyright?

Building a company and a brand takes time and substantial investment. Some businesses don't want to do the work. They simply want to turn a profit. Using images, layouts, descriptions, art or photographs from established brands and products can help make their goods or services more appealing. That can lead to increased sales and profits without the work and investment your company made.

Some companies actually build a business model around violating copyright. Authors, photographers and illustrators are likely familiar with a number of unscrupulous companies that may steal any original content published online. From renaming characters in an otherwise plagiarized novel to selling posters or shirts printed with an image by another artist, some companies can generate quite a bit of income by stealing the original work of other businesses and independent creators.

Take the necessary steps to enforce your copyright

If another person or business has violated your copyright, you need to take immediate steps to protect it. These could include registering a copyright and sending a cease and desist letter to the offending party. It may also involve researching what profits that party made from the copyright infringement and bringing a lawsuit against that party.

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  • The Copyright Society of the USA
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