In this unprecedented world of the internet and social media, we often find that both our social lives and quite literally our business play out all over the internet.

Because of the unpredictable nature of the internet and social media, we are all learning as it develops and it is so easy to forget that what we as individuals place on the internet is (for the most part) owned and belongs to us in the same way that tangible things are.  Whether it is our images, text on our websites or pictures on our Instagram accounts (or any other social media account), we own everything that we have created, so long as it is outside the course of our employment or educational courses that is, and the law protects those “Works” for us.

Another individual is not able to take (“Infringe”) upon the Works that belong to you and use them as their own without your agreement, or “licence” unless certain, but rare, exceptions apply.

All too often do we scroll through social media and see small businesses who work incredibly hard to create a brand, spend gruelling hours bringing their businesses to life and doing a great job of marketing them to find that another business or individual (“Infringer”) has simply taken parts of that hard work and are using it for their own.  Often this happens with photographs of products or copies of documents created on their pages.

It is also possible the Infringer will not understand that they have quite literally broken the law and the original owner of the Works would be best placed to simply contact them to let them know to enable them to remove the breached Works from wherever they are being used.  However, the internet seems to also give people a screen to hide behind and therefore the courage to ignore such requests.  In those instances, there are procedures and laws in place to protect the original owner of the Works and we can help.

The following steps are a useful guide to what steps you should take if you find yourself in this position with someone breaching your copyright online:-

  1. Check whether your Works are indeed protected by your copyright and compile evidence that the Work is indeed yours.
  2. Write to the Infringer letting them know they have breached your copyright and request they cease doing so whilst keeping a written trail of such conversations.
  3. If the Infringement is taking place on the internet, check whether the host or provider of that website has any courses of action to request the pages be taken down.
  4. Arrange to send a Cease and Desist letter. We would be able to prepare and serve this on your behalf.  As the breach has already occurred under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988  it may be that we can request both damages and legal fees within this letter but this should be discussed in the first instance.
  5. If you are concerned that the Infringer may not comply or indeed if they have been served notice to cease and desist and they still do not comply then a Take Down Notice could be sent to the internet service provider to request a takedown of the breached works under Article 19 of the E-Commerce (EC Directive Regulations 2002/2013.
  6. If none of these actions prove to be effective, then court action can be initiated to seek to secure an injunction.

If you have any concerns about your works being infringed upon then please do not hesitate to give us a call today to see if we can assist. You can contact Jo O’Donovan, a Solicitor in the Commercial department, by telephone on 01626 202347 or email JoO’ WBW Solicitors has offices in Newton Abbot, Exeter, Torquay, Paignton, Bovey Tracey, Launceston, Honiton, Exmouth and Sidmouth.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.