When Can an American Sue For Copyright Infringement For a Website?
This article is for an American who believes their copyright has been infringed on the internet and is considering filing a lawsuit. This article will help an American know whether or not they have a sound case for copyright infringement. This article will help an American know their chances of success in winning the case. In the following paragraphs, a copyright infringement scenario over the internet will be discussed.
The scenario involves “Ryan’s Sports Blog” web site (fictional name) and “Tiara’s Good Girls in Good Dresses” web site (fictional name). Ryan has had a lot of success with his web site; he gets 100,000 hits a month. Tiara is just getting started and only attracts 20 hits a month. Ryan writes opinion articles on NFL players regarding their temperament off the field when and if they get drunk. He has written an article on Henry Malroy, (fictional name) the starting quarterback for the Gotham City, Knights (fictional team). He writes, “Henry Malroy seems like a real cool dude. I bet he’s a happy drunk. His girlfriend loves it when Henry gets drunk because when he’s drunk she can get anything she wants. It’s like, ‘here baby, take this check and buy yourself that SUV.’ or ‘here baby, take this check and go rent out that theme park for the weekend and invite all your friends and I’ll gather a few guys from the team and others. Take this check and rent out that limo and take a few of your friends out to cruise the city. Take this check and take yourself and some of your friends to get a massage. Take this check and go that club and buy drinks for your friends and everybody at the club. Take this check and go to that store and buy five dresses, of course the ones that you like, of course the ones that are most expensive.” So Ryan writes that.
Tiara’s site is focused on young women who call themselves “good girls,” and only where pretty white dresses. She sees the article about Henry Malroy and decides to use a portion of it for a post on her site. She titles the post, “A Good Man for a Good Girl Even When He’s Drunk.” She writes, “So I was reading this article from this web site, ‘Ryan’s Sports Blog,’ and ladies I just had to share some of this. It’s talking about Henry Malroy, who is a dream guy. I mean he’s rich, tall talented and all that. But this thing goes on to talk about his drunk temperament. Now, of course good girls shouldn’t be with drunks but maybe I’d make an exception if the temperament was like this. So this guy Ryan writes, “When Henry gets drunk his girl likes it because when he’s drunk she can get anything she wants. It’s like, ‘here baby, take this check and buy yourself that SUV.’ or ‘here baby, take this check and go rent out that theme park for the weekend and invite all your friends and I’ll gather a few guys from the team and others. Take this check and rent out that limo and take a few of your friends out to cruise the city. Take this check and take some friends to get a massage. Take this check and go that club and buy drinks for your friends and everybody at the club. Take this check and go to that store and buy five dresses, of course the ones that you like, of course the ones that are most expensive.” So Tiara writes that.
Could Ryan file a lawsuit for copyright infringement against Tiara? What would his chances of success be?
Well, Tiara didn’t take exactly what Ryan wrote word for word in her post. She did use some of his words but she also added some of her own. Plus, Tiara has referenced Ryan’s site. She has given him credit. Giving a person credit for their work does not protect an American from copyright infringement. In fact, it will just help Ryan have success in proving he has been wronged.
The other issue is the amount of words she has used that were his. She could be off the hook if the court finds she just took a short phrase or an insignificant amount of borrowed text from Ryan’s article. Copyright law does not protect short phrases or common words. However, Tiara has taken a large portion of Ryan’s post. Tiara has given credit to him but she did not bother to ask for his permission to use his words. She has not even attempted to significantly change his words.
Another issue is fact vs. opinion. If Ryan had written about hard facts in this article, then Tiara could have copied it and not be concerned with a lawsuit. Facts are not copyright protected. However, what Ryan has written is an opinion article and one that is creative and unique. His success in court looks very good. Tiara could be sued.
However, no suit can be filed without an official receipt of copyright from the U.S. Copyright Office. In other words, Ryan would have to have registered his article with the copyright office before the infringement took place. That is, if he is looking to get punitive damages. If he registers after the wrong has taken place then all he can get are damages to compensate him and make him whole. He will have to prove exactly how much money he has lost due to this situation.
In conclusion, Ryan can sue Tiara. Ryan should have a strong case and good chance for success. Success may or may not have any money in it for Ryan besides Tiara paying his court costs. It depends if Ryan had previously registered his work before the crime took place. Also it could depend on what Ryan can prove as far as what money he has actually lost due to the infringement. However, regardless of the amount of money, the court will order Tiara to take down the work she borrowed from Ryan.