Bloggers: What To Do If You Receive A Cease And Desist Letter

Thousands of Australians now own and publish their own blogs. Some of these blogs are promotional tools for another part of the business, while other bloggers derive a sizable income from their posts. In either case, bloggers can sometimes infringe on another person's copyright, wittingly or otherwise. Read this article to learn more about the purpose of a cease and desist letter and find out what to do if you receive one of these notifications.

The purpose of a cease and desist letter

If somebody believes that you have stolen or misused his or her intellectual property, you may receive a cease and desist letter from the person's lawyer. These letters will normally threaten you with legal action unless you change, remove or add something to your blog. For example, somebody may say you have copied text without their permission and will ask you to delete it from your blog. Alternatively, the letter may simply insist that you credit the other person in some way or pay compensation.

You may get one of these letters through the post, but you may also get an electronic copy through your email. A cease and desist letter may come as a shock because you may have no idea about the issue raised. Alternatively, the letter may simply escalate a request that you have already received from somebody in a less formal way.

Myths about cease and desist letters

A cease and desist letter will include formal text, prepared and sent by the other person's lawyer, and the content may seem rather intimidating. Of course, this is usually the other party's intention! Nonetheless, there are some myths concerning these letters.

These letters are not legally binding. The allegation in the letter is nothing more than that, and you do not have to respond in any specific way. Similarly, you cannot assume that legal action will automatically follow if you don't take action. In many cases, the other party will not take things further, as he or she will hope the letter is enough to make you take the requested steps.

Your options

If you receive a cease and desist letter about your blog, you normally have four available options.

You can:

  • Ignore the letter. You may not hear anything else, but the other party may escalate the matter if you don't respond.

  • Comply with the demand. You may not feel strongly enough about the issue. For example, if the letter refers to a single article on your blog, you may decide it doesn't really matter if you just delete the offending words.

  • Respond. If you don't agree with the allegation, you can defend your actions in a formal response.

  • Negotiate. You may not want to delete content on your blog, especially if the material has boosted your visitor numbers. In this case, you may decide to negotiate with the other person. For example, you could add a credit or acknowledgement of the source. You may even decide to pay a one-time usage fee to the owner of the text.

Before you do anything, you should always consult an experienced business attorney. He or she can help you decide which option is best for you. An attorney can also help you craft the right response. For example, if you want to refute the allegation, it's important to stick to the facts and avoid any emotional statements.

About takedown notices

When somebody sends a takedown notice, they swear that they are the legal owner of the content. The person may send the notice to the service that hosts your blog, and in many cases, the hosting service will simply comply with the request because they cannot arbitrate between the two parties, although you may get a chance to respond.

Takedown notices are more common when you have shared a file or other content that other uses download. In this situation, a takedown notice will often get quicker results because the ISP or site host may take action immediately. When it comes to alleged copyright infringement related to written content, you're more likely to receive a cease and desist letter.

If somebody objects to content you include in your blog, you may receive a cease and desist letter. Talk to an experienced business and patent attorney for more help and advice about what to do in this situation.