Your company's copyrighted materials are an important business asset. The original work created by your employees or contractors can help distinguish your business from the competition and prop up revenue. Keeping an eye out for copyright infringement will allow you to stop the unauthorized use of your company's creations before your business interests are harmed. Tracking your copyrights will also tell you who needs to be sued in federal court for infringement if all else fails.
Make an archive of your copyrighted material. Include an original copy of the work, proof of origination -- how and when the work was made -- and a copy of the U.S. Copyright Office registration, if you chose to officially register your copyright. Include a master index of your company's copyrighted material.
Set up a Google Alert for text-based material. Google Alerts are ongoing Google searches for terms published over the Internet. Create a search out of unique phrases contained in the work. You can also create a search for the URL on which the work appears if it is published over the Internet. Google Alerts can send you an email any time the search terms appear on the Internet or a link is created back to the URL in the search. This is a free way to monitor content and needs little maintenance.
Embed a digital watermark in all of your images. A digital watermark contains the copyright and contact information for the owner of the photo. Image editing software such as Adobe Photoshop can embed a digital watermark in all of your images automatically.
Register your work with a copyright monitoring service. These services use Internet search robots and spiders to scour the Web for copyright infringement. Companies such as Attributor, Digimarc, PicScout and Idée help you police your copyrights to images and text for a fee. Attributor, for example, is used by many of the world's leading publishing houses to protect their books and magazines from copyright infringement.
Use the monitoring resources of an agent or licensee. The companies tasked with promoting your company's copyrighted materials are also invested in preventing infringement. In the music industry, for example, music publishers and other agents help their clients protect their music and lyrics from unauthorized use. Registering with a managing agent can often take the policing work off your plate.
Once you have determined someone is using your copyrighted material without permission, you probably will want the infringement to stop. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is helpful when the infringement happens over the Internet. You can send the infringer a cease-and-desist letter, demanding that he stop using your material. Most Internet service providers, site hosts and content providers will also immediately remove infringing material from websites they control upon notice.
- Tech Crunch: Attributor Launches Service to Track Copyright Infringement Across the Web
- Pic Scout: ImageTracker -- The Industry Standard for Image Copyright Enforcement
- CNet: Playboy to Tag and Track Images
- ABA Law, Trends & News: The Robots Are Coming: Protecting Website Owners From Copyright Infringement Claims
- Plagiarism Today: How to Use Google Alerts
- Citizen Media Law Project: Copyright Registration and Notice
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images