Register your Copyrights and Trademark before infringement becomes a problem. Even if your rights are protected you hurt yourself by failing to register. Copyright Protection doesn't start at registration. This begins once your idea is produced in tangible, physical form. Similarly, your trademark protection triggers once you start using the mark on your product or services. However, by registering early you have considerably more leverage against infringers.
Statutory damages per infringed work start at $750. You are only entitled to those damages if you register prior to or within three months of infringement. This amount only goes up. This means that if you find someone else selling a bunch of your pictures, you will be entitled to at least $750 per photo. Register your copyrights.
Similarly, you're only entitled to monetary damages under federal Trademark law if you register your mark and affix notice of registration (typically the (r) symbol) every time you use your mar
In the case of clear infringement (piracy or blatant theft of your work) sometimes the most effective method is also the easiest. Most people do not understand the intricacies of intellectual property law. A good number of people believe they have a "fair use" right use your photograph, video, or software in a non-commercial context without permission. In almost every circumstance this is a false presumption.
Sometimes the most cost efficient step is to simply contact the infringer yourself and explain that you own the content they're reproducing. Explain that you did not give them permission to reproduce your intellectual property and they're infringing on your rights. Be respectful but firm. If necessary, direct them to the appropriate resources (listed below) to confirm what you're telling them. If they are belligerent or otherwise refuse move on to the next step.
"Service providers" that host user generated content (e.g.,YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, etc.) and have a registered DMCA Agent (a directory of which is provided below) are shielded from direct copyright infringement liability. However, to comply with the DMCA that service provider must have procedures in place to take down infringing material.
Cease & Desist
A good Cease & Desist may be the last step you need. At this point (or if you skipped Step 1) you will want to consult an attorney to determine the strength of your claim, your rights and your remedies. Simply sending out an angry letter will do little to help your cause. For a nominal fee that attorney will also draft your cease & desist letter. The authoritative voice of an attorney will lend strength to your C&D. The attorney will also know what laws and remedies to list and can explain in detail how the material in question is infringing. Finally the attorney can prepare you for the last possible step(s)-- litigation, licensing or settlement.
Litigation, Licensing and Settlement
This final step can happen in a few ways. If your C&D is completely ignored and the content isn't removed your options are limited to filing a complaint or dropping the matter completely. If the infringer responds or hires an attorney you may be able to resolve the issue without a lawsuit. You can choose to license your content, or in the alternative you may demand a minimum in damages and the removal of all infringing content from the website or content host in question. All of this should be discussed with your attorney.