They say that true art requires suffering, and you’ve certainly invested blood, sweat and tears into your masterpiece. The only problem is that someone else wants to profit from your labor without putting in their own effort.

Although you copyrighted your creative output, this kind of intellectual property protection is just a part of achieving the justice and recognition you deserve. Read on to find out what steps you should take if someone uses your copyrighted work without permission.

A road map to protecting your work

Formally registering a copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office is always the first step to safeguarding your creation and the proceeds from it. For instance, you’ll gain vital rights such as:

  • The authority to decide how to share, distribute, lease or sell the work,
  • The prerogative to display, transmit or perform the work in a public venue of your choosing, and
  • The ability to reproduce, distribute or create derivative works based on the original.

It’s important to understand that these are exclusive rights, meaning that you’re the sole person who can exercise them. When someone else tries to do so, it’s an act of illegal infringement. Under copyright law, you may be liable to receive monetary damages as well as your legal fees, but you must have registered the work before the infringement occurred or within three months of publishing it.

Stopping infringement

  • Sending notification – If you discover that someone is infringing upon your copyright, there are various ways to fight back. One of the most common techniques is to send a formal cease-and-desist letter to the infringing parties asking them to stop violating your rights. Drafting such a letter with the assistance of an attorney may make it more likely that the infringer will comply with your requests without you having to fight an expensive court battle.
  • Suing an infringer – If sending a cease-and-desist letter doesn’t work, then pursuing legal action, like a lawsuit, is the next step. Although U.S. copyright law guarantees you the right to seek damages, it doesn’t just award them to you automatically. You have to go to court, prove that your work was protected and finally show how the violator’s actions caused you monetary damages or other forms of harm.
  • Proving your case – To many San Francisco artists who have their work stolen, it may seem like a no-brainer that they were wronged. Judges and courts, however, are obliged to award you damages only if you can convince them beyond a reasonable doubt that you deserve them.

If you believe your copyrighted work has been infringed, working with an experienced intellectual property attorney could be the easiest way to build a case that resolves in your favor.