Attorney Emily Danchuk works with artists to protect against theft of their intellectual property. ABI spoke with her about copyright protection.
ABI: How prevalent is the theft of artist’s copyrighted work today?
ED: I believe it’s extremely prevalent, but it’s hard to determine just how often it happens without talking to individual artists directly. Shockingly, a lot of artists just don’t want to discuss their experiences, and just consider infringement as a cost of doing business in the industry.
But I believe that many large companies’ business models incorporate – whether subtly or not- intellectual property theft. And small store owners on Etsy and similar websites are following this ever-increasing trend. In short, it’s become a practice across the board by small hobbyists and large conglomerate companies.
Without artists using their voices to deem this practice as unacceptable, I’m afraid the problem will continue to grow and will become an acceptable method of “new” product development.
ABI: Many artists feel helpless when they realize they have been ripped off. What advice would you have for them?
ED: Be proactive, understand the value of your designs and works, and use your voice to decry infringement. Usually, artists use lawyers to address the problem, but a lot of attorneys are out to simply make their billable hours and are unable to express the outraged feelings of the artists themselves.
Artists need to learn to use their own voices and understand fully the damage this theft does to their businesses and passion as artisans and skilled individuals.
ABI: Is pursuing a legal remedy to copyright violation something that individual artists can do? How would they do this?
ED: The best way to handle infringement is to register your works with the Copyright Office before infringement starts. When an artist obtains a copyright registration proactively and before infringement begins, they are entitled to statutory damages, and the leverage that these damages can provide is almost immeasurable.
Learning to be proactive and to gain an understanding of intellectual property is truly the best weapon against intellectual property theft. Once infringement occurs, an artist should send a cease and desist letter with their copyright registration to the infringer. Most of the larger companies who infringe have insurance that will cover the costs of the infringement, so artists shouldn’t be shy about pursuing damages.
ABI: What is your plan to help artists join together to fight this type of violation?
ED: I’m presently working on Copyright Collaborative, a new business aimed at condemning infringement. While Copyright Collaborative will, on one hand, act as an educational and management tool for artists for their intellectual property rights, its overall mission is to unionize artists to fight against the casual practice of intellectual property infringement and theft.
Copyright Collaborative will ideally use the voices of the artists-through petition letters and awareness campaigns-to denounce the practice of intellectual property theft.
Copyright Collaborative will be coming soon with a website for artists. Want to get more information? Visit their Facebook Page.