When House Speaker Paul Ryan used a clip from a Boston College student’s footage of a recent graduation in a video he made about simplifying the tax code, he had no idea he would become the poster child for copyright infringers who think they can get away with using content without permission.  

In the past, you’d automatically picture a student pulling a sentence or two from Encyclopedia Brittanica when plagiarism came to mind,  since using the “CASE” method (Copy and Steal Everything) is still a favorite college acronym.  The DMCA, or the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, is designed to protect against lifting original work off the web. Surprisingly (or not surprisingly depending on how much you know about the law), a growing number of business owners and virtually anyone developing online content are finding themselves in the crosshairs of copyright law more than ever.  Law firms, like PK Boston, have seen a 300% increase in these cases in the last year alone.  Original content owners are fighting back for credit and royalties because, in this day and age, content value is at an all-time high, and the e-methods to track and monitor infringement have gotten much easier.

The Dreaded Warning Letter

When someone in cyberspace decides you used someone’s “Work” and passed it on as your own (either knowingly or unknowingly), you may have been served with a letter from an attorney, after it’s been discovered that you used a video, diagram, or other registered published work that was used without their written permission.  We receive these letters more and more from clients wondering what to do. The first step: don’t panic.  Many owners of the original work are willing to work with you.

Where It All Goes Wrong

Sometimes it takes a stark warning from an original content creator’s attorney to realize that not only have you violated copyright law, but that it could be a very expensive oversight. “After a client realizes they’ve violated the law, it eventually leads to a startling calculation,” said Attorney Robert Pellegrini, Jr., CEO of PK Boston, “if they paid to license the content to begin with, it would have saved thousands of dollars.”

Finding plagiarists is easier now for original content creators who have tools to protect and monitor their content – so beware next time you want to borrow a sentence.