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Victim of Digital Theft? How To Track Down The Source And Prepare For Legal Action

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As the number of websites on the Internet grows, the likelihood of your published works getting stolen is constantly increasing. Protecting digital assets – content, images, videos – that have been published online is tricky. Copyright laws were established to protect the creators, but in today's world of website hijacking, the sheer scale of the problem is making the rules harder and harder to enforce.

If you're worried about copyright infringement or have fallen victim to digital theft, these tips will help.

Track Down the Source

When your digital assets have been stolen, there's every chance your product will spread. Some people may not realise that they're using stolen works and will link back to the thief, believing they were the original publisher. Follow the link trail to find the source. Contact all of the website administrators along the way to ensure they remove your work or credit you as the creator.

Many websites will contain little to no information about the owner or administrator. Search for a contact page, about page, author page or email forms and send a message ordering the recipient to remove the content. If you don't get a response, use the public WHOIS database to find site ownership information.

Compile a Paper Trail

From the day you discover the theft, start creating a paper trail. Include details of the infringement, any correspondence with the website owner and screen captures of the stolen material. Save all of the details to your hard drive and print out physical copies.

Start gathering ownership material so you can prove that you created the stolen works. By typing your website into a search engine, you'll be able to view the search results and see when the page was indexed; take a screen capture. If you have any other details that could prove that you created the content, such as a copyright registration certificate or an original digital file that states the date of creation, add this information.

Send a Cease and Desist Order

A cease and desist order is a essentially a letter that threatens further action. Give the thief a deadline to respond and inform them that they are liable for damages, such as court and lawyer fees – this is only valid if the work has been registered. Send the information to their ISP and host if they don't respond.

Threaten court action as a last resort or if you've incurred severe damages from the copyright infringement. If you cannot resolve the situation on your own, compensation lawyers may be able to help you pursue the matter further.