It’s been almost two months since I shared the news that 228 of my blog posts had been stolen, and the company that took them was suing me for $5 million. The support you’ve sent in the form of notes, cards, and contributions to our legal fund, was truly humbling. I can’t thank you enough – it’s because of you that we’re now a step closer to justice.
Here’s quick recap of the events:
Being on the receiving end of a $5 million lawsuit will get your attention, so I started doing my research. Clearly, the law was on my side, but there are some nuances that apply to litigation that I needed to understand. Here are the highlights:
There is absolutely no question that blog posts, and the photos contained in them, are protected under federal copyright law. If fact, whether or not you mark your work or state your ownership, copyright protection attaches to “original works of authorship” the moment it is “fixed in any tangible medium of expression.” For us bloggers, that means as soon as our text is saved on a hard drive or server, and the moment our photos are stored on our camera’s memory card, they’re protected.
But, if your work is infringed upon and you’re considering suing for damages, whether or not your work is registered with the U.S. Copyright office makes a big difference.
Statutory damages are the court’s “big stick.” Penalties imposed for infringement can range from several hundred dollars up to $30,000 per work. In cases where the court determines the infringement was “willful,” the damages awarded can be even higher – up to $150,000 per infringed work.
When I discovered the infringement, thirty-three of my posts were still within the 90-day window allowing me to register them for copyright protection and seek statutory damages, but because the lawsuit had already been filed against GoPetFriendly.com, we needed an expedited copyright determination, and that costs an extra $800 each.
We made a strategic decision to register only one of my posts with the U.S. Copyright office – it’s the last post the company stole – titled Dog Friendly Things To Do In Banff: Part 2. And I received the certificate of Certificate of Copyright Registration last week!
The reasons we chose to register this post are that it was re-published by ProActive Pet Products AFTER they’d received my first cease and desist notification, so it appears their actions were willful, and it contains 30 of my original photos (each of which counts as an individual work). Plus, I have indisputable evidence that it was published on the ProActivePetProducts.com website without my permission. Here is a screen shot of it on their website:
And here is a tweet published from the the ProActivePet Twitter account with one of my photos and a link to my post on their site:
We can now pursue the infringement case and seek statutory damages for this post and actual damages for the 227 other that were stolen by ProActive Pet Products.
Now we’re ready to retain an intellectual property attorney licensed to practice in Nevada (where the suit against GoPetFriendly.com was filed) and file a motion to dismiss their case and issue a counter claim against the company for the infringement of my work.
I hope you will help me defend GoPetFriendly.com and stand up for all bloggers, sending a message to content thieves that stealing has consequences! If you’re able to support our fight by contributing to our legal fund, I’d be very grateful your help. We are one step closer, but there’s still a way to go. Thank you.