In a corporate environment, a great deal of published content is produced for the benefit of employees and customers. Ideally, another corporation or individual wanting to use written content or images published by the company would contact them for permission to do so. But this doesn’t always happen, resulting in copyright infringement.

The overwhelming amount of content and images available on the internet leads some to believe that they can use someone else’s published work without permission and get away with it. As a corporation, the benefit of having extra eyes and ears can make it easier to stay on top of issues such as copyright infringement. The more content a corporation publishes, the more likely they are to face copyright infringement at some point.

When, and if, it should occur, it’s helpful to know what steps should be taken to deal appropriately with the situation.

  • Find the Appropriate Contact Person.One would think it should be relatively simple to find the individual who has used a corporation’s copyrighted work, but the internet makes it easier for these people to hide. The first places to look for contact information are on the websites “Contact Us” page, author page, or in embedded email links within web content. Even if only the website business name can be uncovered, a resource such as WHOIS or Internic Domain Name Search can be used to get an address and phone number.
  • Approach the Infringer Directly.It’s critical to directly contact the person who has stolen the content or image. Begin with a professional letter that’s free of threats but states clearly what has been used without permission. A request to immediately remove the copyrighted work should also be made. This request can be made in a concise, professional letter without getting ugly.At this point, the corporation should begin keeping records of their attempts to deal with the infringement.
  • Gather Evidence.If the situation reaches the point where it’s obvious that the infringer is not going to remove the stolen work, it will be important to have evidence on hand. In addition to creating a paper trail to document everything that’s been done to resolve the issue, the company should also gather any information that proves ownership of the work that’s been stolen.
  • Notify the Infringer of Next Actions.A cease-and-desist order lets the infringer know they need to stop using the stolen work or face the consequences of doing so. Once the individual or business knows that they face attorney fees and other court-related costs if things proceed, they may decide to remove the stolen content. Court action is the next step if they persist in using it.
  • Contact the Individual’s Advertisers.Advertisers associated with the website that has been using your stolen image or content will appreciate being informed on what’s going on. Rather than being viewed as guilty by association, they’re more likely to pull their ads. This direct negative impact on the infringer’s business can hurt where it counts…in the bottom line.
  • Employ the Assistance of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 helps protect people and entities whose work has been stolen and reused on the internet. Once notified of the infringement, online service providers and search engines will contact the infringer prior to blocking access to the stolen work.

Prevention is the Most Effective Stance

Corporate success relies, in part, on the reputation of the company. Well-written content and published images can help a company gain exposure as their published works climb in searches and eventually (hopefully) rank first on Google.

When someone else steals a corporation’s image or content, company image is at risk of sustaining damage to their hard-earned positive reputation. These steps can help those involved in dealing with copyright infringement know how to handle the situation when it occurs and, better yet, how to avoid outright theft of unprotected material.

Mary Ylisela is an author who writes about business-building, marketing, and work-life balance.