Copyright: Protecting your product

You created a unique story, and you want to share it. However, you're worried that someone with more influence or marketing could take your work and make it out to be their own.

For that reason, you sought a copyright. Months later, after your book was published and began to do well, you noticed your illustrations and work being used illegally by others. Certain websites were giving it away for free, and people were using your art on T-shirts and other items to make a profit.

Since you have a copyright, you know that it is only your right to make copies of your work, to distribute that work, to perform your work in public, to display your work or to make derivative works. In most cases, it's illegal for others to do any of those things without getting your permission.

How can you stop someone who is infringing on your copyright?

You should talk to your attorney immediately if someone is using your work without permission. That individual can be charged and may be found guilty. If so, they may have to pay statutory damages, which is compensation paid to you to make up for your losses. The individual will also have to stop using your work.

How do you prove infringement?

To prove that infringement has taken place, you will want to demonstrate that the other party is using a substantially similar product and had access to your work. Since your work is public and has had success, it's easier for you to show that they could have obtained the work online or in a book store, for example.

The court will look at the product that you claim is infringing on your property and then compare it to your original work. If they are similar enough, then the judge will rule in your favor.

What should you do if you want to allow others to use your copyrighted work?

If you want to allow others to use your copyrighted work, you need to decide on the type of use you'll allow. You can create a contract with that person or business to use your character or product to make their own products and to make sales. Normally, authors and illustrators allow certain production companies to have some rights, with one or both parties receiving a portion of the profits for each piece that is sold.

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