It has become increasingly essential for brands of all industries to keep their copyright protected. Infringements pose significant challenges for copyright in businesses, impacting their revenue, brand reputation, and creative integrity.
Copyright infringements can affect all types of businesses, not just those that directly earn revenue through their copyrighted media. It is an early warning sign for counterfeiting, and can be as important as trademarks for online brand protection.
In this article, we'll explore the various ways copyright violations occur and provide actionable steps to protect your valuable intellectual property.
This guide covers:
✅ A brief definition of copyright and its relevance to modern businesses
✅ How bad actors exploit copyright infringement
✅ Specific copyright infringements to watch out for
✅ A practical 4-step process to protect your copyright online
Copyright is a fundamental pillar of intellectual property (IP) law designed to preserve and protect creative works. This legal right grants exclusive ownership to creators, safeguarding their works from unauthorized reproduction, distribution, or use without permission.
For a quick rundown, the list of copyrightable works includes:
- Literary works, e.g. books, articles, poems, plays, and scripts
- IT creations, e.g. software, databases, and computer programs
- Audio works, e.g. music, recordings, podcasts
- Audiovisual works, e.g. animations, films, and television shows
- Artworks, e.g. drawings, paintings, photos, sculptures
- Other works, including maps, advertisements, choreography, and architecture
For businesses and brand owners, copyright laws protect a crucial element of intellectual property, as it safeguards their creative content and prevents others from using, copying, or distributing their works without permission.
The Copyright Within Your Business
There is a common misconception that copyright only affects businesses that earn revenue through artistic media, like movie studios, record labels, or manga and manhwa distributors. The reality is that essentially all businesses own copyright.
Common copyrighted works owned by businesses can include:
- Website and blog content
- Product and training manuals
- Software code
- Business logos
- Custom fonts
The takeaway here is that all businesses have a vested interest in managing and protecting their copyright, even if it doesn’t bring in revenue directly. Embracing copyright protection empowers businesses to safeguard their brand in the long term and creates a solid foundation for future growth and success.
How Copyright Infringement Damages Businesses
Much like with trademarks, copyrighted materials help brands to establish their authenticity online. That’s why counterfeiters and other bad actors online find it so beneficial to infringe brands’ copyright.
These actions can cause significant damage to a business in both the short-term and long-term. Below are some of the major problems copyright infringements can cause if left unchecked.
Taking sales from legitimate businesses is a major motivation for infringing on a brand’s copyright. Using copyrighted materials can provide enough of an appearance of legitimacy to allow bad actors to pose as authentic brands and confuse vulnerable consumers.
Allowing copyright infringement can empower bad actors to expand their operations to more directly harmful actions. If infringers know they can step on a brand’s copyright, this can give them the green light to move fully into counterfeiting. Conversely, a business that is stringent with protecting all of their IP sends a message to bad actors that infringements won’t be tolerated at any level.
Loss of customer trust is a very common repercussion of allowing copyright infringement to continue. Someone who interacts with a bad actor online, be it through a phony social media profile, rogue website or other, will often blame the actual brand for their experience. It’s essential for brands to communicate to their customers that seeing their logo, brand name, or any copyright materials is a promise of a positive customer experience.
Examples of Copyright Infringements in Business
Corporate copyright exists beyond revenue-earning copyrighted materials, like film, music, or literature. Every business owns their own copyright, even if they’re not aware of it. Third parties infringing on copyright is often the beginning of serious threats to a brand’s long-term success.
Let’s take a closer look at common examples of copyright infringements that affect businesses.
Copyrighted Images and Photographs
Familiar, recognizable imagery is easily taken from brands’ websites and social media profiles and used on counterfeiters’ online marketplace listings, rogue websites, and impersonating social channels.
These images allow counterfeiters communicate their wares to customers without using protected brand names and keywords
Using this strategy helps counterfeiters in a number of ways:
- As it’s easier to search for text than images, it lets counterfeiters stay hidden from brand protection efforts for longer.
- Many online marketplaces and social media enforce image copyright claims much slower than they do for trademark infringements
- It allows counterfeiters to show the image of the product without actually claiming it is a replica or dupe.
Your Copyright on Their Products
It’s becoming increasingly common for online vendors to infringe on brands’ copyrights and trademarks to produce and sell their own “original” products online. Websites like Etsy and Redbubble are examples of marketplaces that infringers often abuse to sell this type of merchandise.
In most cases, consumers will see these products online and buy them without even knowing it’s infringing on third-party copyright. With small-scale manufacturing becoming easier and more accessible, it’s never been easier to take artwork created by businesses and artists and put them on products like t-shirts, coffee mugs, or posters.
It’s important to note that these products may not necessarily count as counterfeits. In a sense, they are often original products, as they’re not intended to replicate existing products or fool consumers into thinking the products are made by the copyright-owning brand. However, businesses still own this copyright and have a legal right to stop these products from being sold, or to take further action against the vendors.
You don’t need to be part of a business that defines itself as a “software company” to own software. It’s now very common for businesses to create their own apps and programs as a supporting tool for other business operations.
Software theft can take place when a third party gains unauthorized access, or "cracks", software in order to replicate it for their own purposes. The purpose behind this often ties to phishing and other scams, where users aren’t careful enough to download the official software from the original brand.
Software which is pirated in this way can often result in users installing malware onto their devices or providing sensitive information to pirates with malicious intent.
How Businesses Can Protect Copyright Online
As part of a full brand protection strategy, it's essential to properly protect your business’s copyright online. We've broken this down into a simple four-step process to follow:
Step 1 - Register Your Copyright
Before embarking on any efforts to protect your copyright, it’s essential that you ensure it is properly registered.
While copyright is automatically granted upon creation, registration is essential for enforcing it online. Luckily, registering copyright is a very simple process, accessible through the Intellectual Property office of your home country.
With copyright registered, your business is equipped with the legal standing to take action against infringers and pirates.
Step 2 - Track
As a business owner, protecting your copyright starts with tracking it in the vast online world. Regularly search popular websites, platforms, and social media for any instances of your copyrighted content being used without permission. While it may take up a lot of time, this vigilance helps you identify potential infringements
Step 3 - Remove
Addressing copyright infringements manually requires proactive efforts. When you discover unauthorized use of your copyrighted content, act swiftly to protect your rights. Reach out to the website or platform hosting the infringing material and request its removal. Most websites have a designated process for copyright complaints.
American brand owners should consider sending a formal Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice, while other countries will have their own equivalents of DMCA for brands to use.
Step 4 - Analyze
Though manual, analyzing data is essential for understanding the extent of copyright infringement. Keep a record of instances where your content was misused, including relevant URLs and screenshots. Identify patterns and repeat offenders to take more impactful actions in the future.
Pay attention to any online trends or changes within platforms that might affect your copyright protection efforts. Regularly review and update your strategies based on the insights gained from your analysis. Counterfeiters and copyright pirates don’t accept their criminal activities being stopped easily, so it’s essential to keep in step with their evolving strategies to keep your brand’s copyright protected in the long-run.
The Automated Solution To Copyright Infringement
MARQ Commerce is the all-in-one IP protection platform that allows brands to streamline and enhance their brand protection effortlessly. By protecting copyright alongside trademarks, businesses can ensure their brand is permanently protected online.
We utilize industry-leading technology to constantly enhance MARQ Commerce’s scope of operations and speed of detection and enforcement.
Image Recognition empowers us to scan through millions of online listings swiftly. By doing so, we can effectively identify copyright-infringing listings and websites that might raise suspicion as potential counterfeits.
Semantic Analysis automatically detects data points like product descriptions, pricing, and customer reviews for patterns and characteristics commonly associated with counterfeit products. This comprehensive approach helps us pinpoint potential threats to your brand's integrity and enables us to take proactive measures against counterfeiters.
Automated Rights Enforcement seamlessly initiates the process of submitting takedown requests across thousands of online marketplaces spread across more than 100 countries. This automated enforcement ensures a swift response to IP infringements, providing brands with the peace of mind that their brand is protected on a global scale.
Get in touch today to learn how MARQ Commerce can comprehensively protect your copyright, get in touch today.