When a person or party violates the exclusive copyright ownership of a work of authorship, the owner of the copyright may choose to report copyright infringement. This is done in a specific manner outlined by U.S. copyright laws.
The U.S. Copyright Office holds records of all registered copyrights, though it does not enforce the law it administers. Copyright law is handled as a civil matter and the copyright owner is required to take their claims to Federal court to be heard. Some instances of copyright infringement may become classified as either a criminal misdemeanor or even a felony, and as a result, would then be prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice.
What to Know Before Entering Copyright Legal Proceedings
Under the Copyright Act, it is essential for the owner of the infringed copyright to register their claim as soon as possible to give themselves an adequate opportunity to remedy their situation in a timely fashion. The longer a copyright case is delayed, the less of an advantage is given to the plaintiff.
Copyrighted work that is registered with the U.S. Copyright Office will ensure that the plaintiff receives monetary compensation, while recovering attorney fees as well. The earlier a registration is made, the easier the process will be in the legal proceedings. If a copyright owner has a certificate of registration (with the U.S. Copyright Office), it is a prerequisite for their legal suit.
In addition, there is a false method of protecting one's work through a process commonly referred to as the "poor man's copyright". This act involves mailing oneself their own work so that it is sealed in an official envelope with the date stamped on it. This act does not hold any ground in a copyright case and has no evidentiary value. Contact copyright lawyers for legal advice and assistance.
How to Report Copyright Infringement
The first thing one should do upon suspecting that a copyright has been used illegally by another party is to contact an attorney that is experienced with handling copyright claims. The U.S. Copyright Office does not provide legal counseling or attorney referrals. A local Bar Association will be able to help recommend the right attorney for a person's situation.
Once the owner has consulted with an attorney and he or she agrees that the case should move forward, the next step is to contact the Intellectual Property (IP) Program of the Financial Institution Fraud Unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Cyber Division of the FBI investigates intellectual property crimes, including digital and electronic works. The Financial Institution Fraud Unit of the FBI handles all other intellectual claims.
The division of the United States Department of Justice that handles intellectual property disputes is called the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS). There are also several organizations that help prosecute intellectual property crimes which can be easily searched for on the Internet.