BEVERLY A. BERNEMAN

Partner

Audit Your Website Now to Avoid Potential Copyright Problems

March 30, 2021

Starting in early 2022, the US Copyright Office will begin offering a small claims court for copyright infringement cases. Now is a good time to audit your website and avoid potential copyright problems.  

About the Copyright Small Claims Court

Claims will be filed with the Copyright Office. The jurisdictional limit will be $15,000 per single infringement and $30,000 total per plaintiff. Only US citizens can participate. Participation will be purely voluntary. The court will be a panel of three judges. They will determine if there’s a basis to proceed before the case is allowed to go forward.

The specific rules for the Small Claims Court are in the works.  

Avoiding Potential Problems

The following is a list of actions you can take now to avoid having to defend a copyright small claims case.

  1. Audit your web content. Make sure you either own or license any content on your website. If your website has a lot of content, the task may seem daunting. But there are some simple steps you can take to lessen the burden. Use a plagiarism detector to scan your website and see what elements of your web content may have come from another place. A plagiarism detector can also tell you if someone else is using your content. Review your content with your current and any previous web developer(s) to verify that your non-originated content is properly licensed by you or assigned to you.

  2. Follow Up With Your Content Creators. If your content was created by an employee in the ordinary course of their duties, you own the content. If your content came from an independent contractor, make sure you have a written agreement either licensing or assigning the content to you. Look at your content creation and website development contracts to understand if your content authors have warranted the originality of their works and will indemnify you from claims of infringement.

  3. Remove any ambiguous content. If you are unsure at all about the ownership or licensing of content, remove it. 

  4. Register your own original content under standard copyright or using the new Group Registration for Short Online Literary Works (GRTX) process. The U.S. Copyright Office will allow the group registration of poems, short stories, articles, essays, blog entries and social media posts. There are specific conditions to the group registration. But, it covers a lot of what websites contain. And, it puts you in a position to protect your content in the Copyright Office Small Claims Court.

  5. Repeat. An audit should be repeated regularly. How often depends on the amount of new content on your website website. If the website is continuously providing new content, a quarterly audit may be necessary. If not, a yearly audit might be sufficient.

The best way to protect yourself from copyright infringement claims is to know where your content comes from, who owns it and whether you have permission to use it. Copyright audit evaluations and litigation can be complex. Copyright counsel can help you with your audit and to respond to any claims of infringement. 

If you have any questions or would like to have an attorney help you with your copyright audit, contact Beverly A. Berneman, IP Practice Group Chair, 312-696-1221, baberneman@gct.law.