When someone infringes your copyright, you have a limited time to make your claim. This is based on a legal principle called “statute of limitations.” Statutes of limitation, in general, are laws that prescribe the time limit to file lawsuits. The deadlines vary by the type of claim and maybe by the state where you live. The purpose of them is to reduce the unfairness of defending actions after a substantial period of time has elapsed. They allow people to go on with their lives, regardless of guilt, after a certain time.
Because copyrights are governed by federal law, there is only one statute of limitations for claims related to them. Copyright infringement claims have a three-year statute of limitations from the “last act” of the infringement. What constitutes the last act can vary. For example, if your image is published in a newspaper without your permission, you have three years from the date that the newspaper was distributed to file your claim in court. But if the infringement is continuing, such as when someone is using your image on the web without your consent, then the time to calculate the statute has not started to run. Instead, it would start when your photo is removed from the website. Determining when a statute has started to run can get a bit tricky. It sometimes starts when you have “constructive” notice of the infringement, even if you don’t have actual knowledge of it.
If someone uses your photo without your permission, you may seek legal remedy from that person within three years of the last act of infringement. So don’t sit on your claim once you have it. Note, however, to pursue any copyright infringement claims in court, you must first register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office.
Take my advice; get professional help.
Copyright 2005 Carolyn E. Wright All Rights Reserved
--- ABOUT THE AUTHOR ---
Carolyn E. Wright, Esq., has a unique legal practice aimed squarely at the needs of photographers. A pro photographer herself, Carolyn has the credentials and the experience to protect photographers. She’s represented clients in multimillion dollar litigations, but also has the desire to help new photographers just starting their careers. Carolyn graduated from Emory University School of Law with a Juris Doctor, and from Tennessee Tech Univ. with a Masters of Business Administration degree and a Bachelor of Science degree in music.
She wrote the book on photography law. “88 Secrets to the Law for Photographers," by Carolyn and well-known professional photographer, Scott Bourne, is scheduled for fall 2005 release by Olympic Mountain School Press. Carolyn also is a columnist for PhotoFocus Magazine.
Carolyn specializes in wildlife photography and her legal website is http://www.photoattorney.com
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