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Understanding the Basics of Copyright Infringement

If you spend any time online, or on social media sites, you’ve become accustomed to seeing much of the same material—cat videos, news stories, buzzfeed quizzes—time and again. Whether it’s friends and family posting the most recent video to go viral, or magazine/news pages weighing in on the latest pro sports scandal, we often see the content repeated via multiple channels. In fact, according to Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search spam, as much as 30 percent of online content is duplicate. But duplicative content is not the same as copyright infringement, which has taken on a life of its own. 

Some common types of infringement concern include images, music, and videos (think illegally copied pictures in blog posts, unauthorized YouTube videos of AT40 hits, or pirated downloads of summer blockbusters); however, a fair amount of intellectual property is also copied. 

Intellectual property is defined as something unique that you physically create. While an idea alone is not intellectual property, if it’s developed into a product (a book, or a brand), those creations are considered intellectual property. And copyright, patents, designs and trademarks are all constitute a means of protection.

Infringement has become a big problem. Last month alone, according to the Google Transparency Report, more than 4,500 copyright owners claimed their brand had been infringed upon. But simply having your property copied doesn't mean anything in the courts unless it's registered. You’re unable to take legal action against a party unless, for example, your logo has been copyrighted with the government, and—best case scenario—trademarked on a national level with the federal government.

To learn how to register various types of materials and property, visit the U.S. Copyright Office at or find a similar government portal in another country to learn about the process. 

If you run a business, having your content or brand copied may seem like a good thing—free publicity, right? Not at all. Copyright infringement can serve disreputable purposes, even diverting web traffic from your site. 

Finding out if your content or brand is being infringed upon can be difficult. The first thing is to copyright and trademark the logo, then it’s imperative to institute a monitoring system. An easy way to find out when your business info is posted on the web is by using Google Alerts. By creating an alert, the service will send a notification when related information is posted online. Google Webmaster Tools can also be an invaluable resource, allowing you to view your site rankings, as well as links to your site, and where they're coming from.

If unauthorized material is found, the process to have it removed in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is simple, yet detailed—and not always a guarantee that the information will be removed:

  • Find out details about the person or business infringing your copyrights, Hosting Company, Payment Processors etc.
  • Report copyright infringement to Authorities like Search engines, Hosting companies, Payment Processors, ISP and other internet crime reporting organizations 

Marketing Dock offers a step-by-step tutorial to walk you through this (somewhat confusing) process. 

Unfortunately, there’s no sure-fire way to protect your business from being a target for copyright infringement. But by registering your brand and content, as well as monitoring online activity, you will have a means of reacting should you become a victim of intellectual property theft. 

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