As a small business owner, you might create original material, known as intellectual property, such as original photographs, graphics, animation, music, and articles, and publish such material online. You copyright this type of material to protect it just as you would any of your other business assets. You also might use other people’s copyrighted material on your website or in other online marketing materials. To protect creators from copyright infringement, the government of Canada established the Notice and Notice Regime in 2015, which became part of the Copyright Modernization Act of 2012.
Notice and Notice Provisions Explained
Internet users sharing your copyrighted online material might not be a problem for you, especially when they pay you for the right to use it. It also helps when they give you credit or allow you to benefit in some way or other, such as by directing traffic to your website. The problem is some internet users publish other people’s copyrighted material on their websites without permission. They might do this to gain in some way, for example, to get more social media followers or website subscribers. The Notice and Notice Regime is meant to discourage internet users from engaging in copyright infringement.
For instance, say you create a one-of-a-kind image of a butterfly or a car and post it on your business website showcasing your graphic design skills. Unfortunately, screenshot and save-image features on computers and smart devices make it easy for any internet user to visit your website, make a copy of the image, and use it on their website without your permission. Should you find out about it, Notice and Notice makes it possible for you to send a notice informing the individual or business that they’re engaging in copyright infringement.
If you make short movies — as you would do to showcase your advertising or filmmaking skills — you might post clips or full-length footage on your website for prospective clients to download. People who aren’t planning on giving you business also may visit your website and see the short movies, then decide to download and post your video content on their websites without asking your permission. Under Notice and Notice, you have a right to notify a website publisher of a copyright infringement for downloading and publishing your video content without your permission.
Communicating Copyright Infringement
Contacting a website publisher about a possible copyright infringement isn’t as confrontational as it sounds. You never have to contact the person directly. The three steps are as follows:
- Contact the person’s internet service provider. This is to ensure the notice gets delivered to the person’s correct email address
- The ISP sends the website publisher a notice of the copyright infringement allegation by email
- Finally, the ISP sends you a notice letting you know the website publisher has been contacted
For example, say you find out a company is using your copyrighted music track in a video advertisement published online. All you need to do is contact their ISP, which is required by law to send a notice saying you’re alleging copyright infringement.
When pursing copyright infringement, remember that U.S. copyright laws don’t apply in Canada and vice versa. So Notice and Notice would not be the way to go about protecting your copyrighted material across international borders.
What Goes in a Notice of Copyright Infringement
If you choose to ask an ISP to send a notice to someone infringing on your copyright, your request must include the following:
- Your name and address
- Details about the copyrighted material
- Why you have a right to claim copyright infringement — the fact you created it, in most cases
- The web address where the copyrighted material is found
- The date and time of the alleged copyright infringement — a blog post date and time stamp, for example
Should You Get a Notice of Copyright Infringement
Getting a notice of alleged copyright infringement doesn’t obligate you to respond or do anything about it, states the Notice and Notice Regime. For obvious reasons, including avoiding a lawsuit, you may want to investigate the allegation, because it could be that someone using your internet service is responsible for the infringement. There’s no need to go into a blind panic just because you get a notice, though; it doesn’t mean you’re automatically getting sued. The notice simply is to make you aware of the copyright infringement allegation, which should prompt you to look into the matter and resolve it. For example, your company’s internet service might be in your name, so you would get the notice, even if it’s your administrative assistant who created and published a blog post with copyrighted material.
After a Notice
Should the allegation not be resolved and the courts get involved, as a person who is suspected of copyright infringement, your ISP must provide your private contact information to the courts. Also, remember that a copyright holder can sue you for infringement even if they didn’t send a notice through your ISP.
To stay on the right side of copyright laws, it always pays to pay for content when asked, give creators of original works credit when it’s due, and take down material you don’t have the right to post.