Intellectual Property Law
Intellectual Property Law Questions? Ask a Lawyer
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Okay, so what you are looking at is a secondary liability issue. The landmark case on vicarious liability in the USA was Shapiro, Bernstein and Co. v. H.L. Green Co.
In that case the court was faced with a copyright infringement suit against the owner of a chain of department stores where a concessionaire was selling counterfeit recordings. The court imposed liability, even though the defendant was unaware of the infringement, reasoning that the store proprietor had the power to cease the conduct and because he obtained direct financial benefit from the infringement.
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What should we do?
You have probably received a cease and desist letter. The proper thing to do here is to let the copyright owner know that you did not know that you were selling copyrighted materials and that you are willing to comply with the cease and desist.
Are we liable for that?
If the dollar amounts of your sales are significant enough for them to go after, then you may want to discuss some settlement options with them to avoid per violation statutory penalties that could be imposed. If the person you hired has any money, you can try to sue him/her to recover your loss.
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Noramlly under an applicable international treaty, a United States author is automatically entitled to protection against the infringement of his work in a foreign jurisdiction. The U.S. author does not have to register the work in the foreign jurisdiction or comply with any other formalities required in the foreign jurisdiction. However, as in your case, if an act of infringement occurs in a foreign country, then the infringement lawsuit must be brought in the courts of the foreign country, and will be prosecuted under the terms of the foreign jurisdiction’s copyright law, not under the United States Copyright Act.
So this is a significant procedural hurdle working in your benefit. The penalties would be based on your local laws, if any. Yes, apologize and remove the content. If they ask about money, then do a small settlement on account of this major road block for them.
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