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Content, Writing and Copyright Forum

Stolen Content: What to do next?
after hunting down, e-mailing, and snail-mailing, when can I sue?

 9:52 pm on Jan 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

Suppose a site has taken your content. You have contacted the offender via e-mail twice; no joy. You have contacted the host's DMCA e-mail address twice; no joy. You have followed up with both via snail-mail (including copies of all previous e-mails, printouts of your original content and their violating copies, copies of your copyright Certificate of Registration, and a statement containing all of the DMCA-mandated information), requiring them to sign for the packages so you get the little green postcards back in the mail with their John Hancocks.

Now what? Do you have to spend a few thousand on lawyers, asking once again ("and this is really the last time, gosh diddly darn it!") that they respect your rights? Or can you go straight to the lawsuit portion of the program?

Advice? Experience? URLs?

Thank you.




 9:55 pm on Jan 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

You can sue any time you want. Whether you can win - or whether there is anything TO win - is advice you should probably seek from an attorney.


 10:22 pm on Jan 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

They stole my content, word for word, image for image, comma for comma. I have a registered copyright predating the infringement. I don't understand: Why would I not win? Why would there be nothing to win?

Thank you.



 10:31 pm on Jan 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

If everything is blatant and documented you probably could win (if you had as much money to spend as the other site). Whether there is anything to win is the bigger question - if the offender is an individual, a very small company, located in a different country, etc., enforcing any kind of judgment and collecting actual money may be difficult or impossible.

The ideal defendant would be a stable domestic corporation with deep enough pockets to make suing them worthwhile, but whose pockets are not so deep that they can outspend you on legal fees. ;)

Check What To Do When Your Content Is Copied [webmasterworld.com] for some other things you can do to remedy the situation.


 10:38 pm on Jan 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

you also have to ask yourself if you really experienced monetary damages or just hurt pride.

It sucks when someone pirates your work but most of the time it doesn't really cost you anything and the person pirating is too lame to make any money off of it.


 10:38 pm on Jan 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

Nothing to win because more than likely a site willing to steal material has nothing to lose.

Your best remedy now; contact the search engines and make them aware of the situation. It is a long invlved process, but it beats the heck out of the alternatives.

They will ask for copies of all your paperwork. Inturn they may well drop the other sites listing.

It is a sad state when sites steal material. I do not consider it flattery, but rather outright theft. At times I become very enraged about the particular subject.


 11:35 pm on Jan 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

rogerd: Thank you for the link. I was aware of that thread and titled mine to hint at the connection.

The offenders in my case tend to be educators working for universities and secondary schools. They either have taxpayers or endowments backing them up. I think there should be something collectible.

figment88: If I can't prosecute unless I'm a corporation that is losing sales, then what rights do individuals have? Surely it is not the case that only the rich have genuine and defensible copyright privileges.

molsmonster: I may find the offenders through the search engines, but their listings are not the point. The fact that they are being paid for the teaching that I'm actually doing, sometimes selling my lessons in their teaching products (like CDs full of PDFs of my content), this is the point. In order to protect my rights and my future plans for my content, I think I need bootleg copies to be taken down, not just hidden from the search engines.


Which still leaves me with my original question. Now that I've done the e-mail thing (both to the offender and to the offender's host) and the snail-mail thing (again to both, return-receipt requested), what remains to be done, before filing an action? Lots? Nothing? Something in between?

Thank you.



 12:11 am on Jan 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

>> Do you have to spend a few thousand on lawyers... Or can you go straight to the lawsuit portion of the program?

I think you would be very foolish to try this. Who exactly do you sue? Where do you sue? How much in damages do you sue for? What if you are unable to prove the case in court and have to pay legal costs for the defendant?

I would simply wait for the letters to be delivered, wait a bit for some action/response, and then follow up with a lawyer's letter if necessary. If you're not willing to spring for a consultation with a lawyer, then that suggests to me that the actual monetary damages to you are too low to ever consider suing over.


 1:33 am on Jan 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

jomaxx: You say I would be foolish to pursue legal means to protect my rights. How would you then suggest that I protect these rights? Or do you view these rights as being only for the wealthy? I do not understand.

As for whom to sue, one would sue the person who posted the violating content (as being the responsible party), possibly the institution which they represent, and certainly the host (when shown to be contributorily infringing). At least, this is what my lawyer advises me.

We would sue in our local jurisdiction. I believe this is the customary practice.

The damages are parametrised by statute; the actual damages are set, case by case, by judges, depending upon the circumstances.

I have already sent e-mail letters and snail-mail letters. The lawyer says that I have sent exactly what he would have sent. I do not understand that need for continual repetition of the same one-sided discourse. As for my not being willing to "spring" for lawyer's fees, I'm not sure where you get this from; the legal advice I have thus-far received has been far from free.

And still I am left with my original question. I have been told that, not being wealthy, I can't sue, that not being a corporation, I can't sue, that not having spent thousands on lawyers to have them do, well, nobody has said quite what yet, I can't sue. Please precisely list out the steps, apparently myriad, that are customary to take before one is deemed worthy to seek redress through the courts. I have complied with federal statute; what more need I do?

Thank you.



 2:00 am on Jan 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

Eliz - I understand you are frustrated, but I really think I gave you pretty good advice in my response above, as did several other posters.

You can walk into court tomorrow and sue. But where you should file suit, who you should sue, what chance of winning you have, and most importantly, what chance of actually collecting damages you have are questions that could be better answered by competent legal counsel - which we are not.

Good luck.


 4:14 am on Jan 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

Mardi_Gras: Please note that I was not the one who asked where to sue, who to sue, for how much, or how to collect damages. I asked what stages, if any, come between filing notice in accordance with the DMCA, and filing suit. I have not asked legal questions; others have asked them of me. I was hoping that somebody could answer my informational question, but I guess nobody here is familiar with this area.

Ah, well; it was free to ask.

Thank you for your time.



 7:25 am on Jan 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hey Eliz.

I think everyone sympathizes with your situation, but I agree with some others here that it's difficult to understand what kind of answer you're looking for in this forum. You say:
I have been told that, not being wealthy, I can't sue, that not being a corporation, I can't sue, that not having spent thousands on lawyers to have them do, well, nobody has said quite what yet, I can't sue.
I don't think those are accurate representations of what's being said. I have NO experience with any of this, but it looks like people here are saying you CAN sue. I think you can bring an action for a few hundred dollars or even less. My guess (and of course that's all it is) is that if the infringement is blatant and easily proven, you basically can't lose. After all, in civil actions you only need a preponderance of the evidence.

I'd say you shouldn't have any problem getting the material taken off the internet. Recovering economic damages would seem to be more complicated. If all you really want is to stop them from selling your stuff, my admittedly uninformed opinion would be to ring an action ASAP. My inclination would be to avoid as much as possible incurring any more legal costs. This seems like a straightforward situation unless you want to recover damages.

You say:
I asked what stages, if any, come between filing notice in accordance with the DMCA, and filing suit.
I may be wrong, but it seems to me that is a legal question. Individuals/small businesses do have the same legal rights as well-heeled corporations and I have confidence a court will enforce yours.


 10:48 am on Jan 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

Eliz, having your lawyer threaten to sue in a letter is a good intermediate step. Having a letter arrive on a law firm's letterhead will almost always get immediate attention. The cost should be low, usually under an hour of billable time, perhaps quite a bit under depending on your attorney.


 1:30 pm on Jan 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

ememi: When it is, at the least, strongly implied that my suing would be an exercise in futility (because I'm too poor to afford it, they're too rich to loose, and they're too poor to pay any judgements), I tend to take this as meaning that, effectively and in practical terms, I cannot sue.

As for my question, when I asked for people's experiences (first- or second-hand) with what happens next, I was requesting that people who have been through this situation before (or know people who have) could recount events. I'm sorry to have been confusing.

rogerd: Thank you for your reply. I've never before gotten past the "little green postcard" stage, so I don't know what to expect. Your suggestion is what I am hearing elsewhere, that the next stage is probably a letter from the lawyer announcing the intent to sue. If there is then no positive resolution, we would be filing suit.

Thanks to all for their time.



 1:52 pm on Jan 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hey Eliz.

I don't think you're being confusing. But I do think you're understandably frustrated and perhaps even angry and upset. You'd probably agree that state of mind doesn't lend itself to clear thinking. Without meaning to sound argumentative, jomaxx did note earlier that you might
then follow up with a lawyer's letter if necessary.
These copyright infringers sound like some real creeps from what you've posted here--good luck going after them.


 2:54 pm on Jan 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

For the record, I wasn't saying you would be foolish to sue. I meant you would be foolish to sue without consulting a lawyer, which is what you were contemplating in the passage I quoted.


 3:37 pm on Jan 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

Also for the record, you completely misrepresented what I wrote.

I stated nothing about the differences between individuals and corporations. I never brought up issues of rich versus poor.

I was merely suggesting you take a step back, catch your breath, and ask yourself if this is really important.

It may very well be, and from your subsequent comments, it sounds like it is. In all stages of such matters, you have to make sure anger does not cloud your judgement.

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