Wednesday, March 2, 2016

What to do about Digital Piracy and/ or Plagiarism

Old McDonald had a Funny Farm Kindle Cover (610x854)Okay, the big moment has arrived. It took you two years to write your book, another to find a publisher, and now, after another year of reading and correcting proofs and Okaying your cover, and waiting out printer’s delays, the book is ready to be sold. You can’t believe it and you can’t help jumping up and down, while visions of autograph parties and your book’s title as number one on the New York Times Best Seller List dance through your head.
If you’re like me, you’ve already typed your title and name into your favorite Internet search engine and are just waiting to see your name in print. Oh yes, you cry unabashedly, it’s there! I see it at Borders and Barnes and Noble and Amazon. Oh wow! Look at this! It’s even on Target and sites from Japan and Korea and India. Even Australia and Ireland. Oh man! J.K. Rowling, watch out! And then you see it.

The Evil Deed There, in front of your eyes, is one of the things that authors fear most: someone is offering free downloads of your book! Your jaw plummets to the floor as your heart leaps to your throat; your face turns puce as smoke flows from your ears; your visions fizzle away as you think, Oh my heck! What am I going to do now? And then, the nerve. They have some gall! All my hard work, down the drain. So, in other words, someone has violated your copyright without your express permission.(1)
According to Section 501, “Anyone who violates any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner…is an infringer of the copyright or right of the author.” A copyright provides the owner of a work with certain exclusive rights, which are listed in Section 106 of the copyright law. These are the right to:
· Reproduce the work in copies;
· Prepare derivative works based upon the work;
· Distribute copies of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by    rental, lease or lending;
· Perform the work publicly;
· Display the copyrighted work publicly.

What to Do in Case of Infringement You are now faced with the problem of how to proceed. The first thing I did was to see if I could – by informing the infringer that he was violating my copyright – convince him to take my book off the free download list. He did—for about two hours. I tried several more times and then, in the end, gave up. When I spoke to my publicist about it, she tried also, with the same result.
So what comes next? If your publishing company is big enough, they may have a group of copyright lawyers connected to the company itself; however, as in my case, you will need to find legal counsel, because copyright infringement is a civil matter that must be taken care of in a federal court. It is useless to turn to the Copyright Office, because it only writes the law; it doesn’t have the responsibility of enforcing it.
Another good idea is to register the copyright so that, in case of legal action, you will have better opportunities with registration of the work before or within three months of publication, statutory damages will be available, and the recovery of attorney’s fees may be available also. You must have a registration certificate (or a rejection of an application for copyright) in order to begin a case for copyright infringement in a federal district court. A copy of the work sent to oneself is not a valid option for a registration certificate, nor has it any legal or evidentiary value.

Where to Find Legal Assistance Since the Copyright Office doesn’t offer a list of available copyright attorneys, the job of finding one falls on your own shoulders. There are several ways of finding one, including looking in the yellow pages or your favorite search engine. There are several other places to look for a copyright attorney or one specialized in intellectual property, arts or entertainment, such as your local or state bar association; Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts in your area should be able to help you find free or reduced price legal assistance, and local law schools might possibly have programs in Intellectual Property or Arts and Entertainment Law.
A complaint may be filed with the FBI, in the case of criminal copyright infringement - where the infringer willfully violates the owner’s copyright for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain. The Agency has two main divisions that investigate these crimes: the Cyber Division regarding all property crimes regarding all digital and electronic crimes, and the Financial Institution Fraud Unit for all other intellectual property crimes.

Damages Awards Copyright owners whose works have been violated are entitled to actual damages undergone and any profits received by the infringer. However, if, at any time during the time spent waiting for the judge’s decision, the owner decides that he or she would prefer to receive an award of statutory damages he could receive a minimum of $750.00 and a maximum of $30,000.00, at the discretion of the court. If the copyright owner can prove that the infringer willingly violated the copyright – knowing that the work was under copyright law – the court could possibly increase the statutory damages up to $150,000.00. This is part of the reason that it is important to register your work as quickly as possible. I hope that no one has to look on internet and see their book or other creation being offered free, like I did. But if you do, know at least that there is something that can be done to recover what has been done. It will probably take time and a lot of effort, but only we can help to eliminate digital piracy.
Information for this article was obtained from the following sites:
1 Story based on the author’s personal experience

Copyright Office:

This article originally appeared on the website on March 17, 2011.
©Mary Purpari March 17, 2011. Renewed © March 03 2016 by Mary Purpari. All rights reserved.

Mary Purpari is the author of the book Old McDonald had a Funny Farm under the name Mary McDowell. The book is available in e-book format on Amazon