The internet is a vast and intimidating place. With every new opportunity for business, there will be bad actors to look out for. The world of IP and copyright infringement carries heavy consequences, so if someone approaches you with claims, you should always contact an IT professional before downloading or viewing anything provided by this party. This is especially true with online communication, emails, and comments posted to your website.
There has been a new scam trend wherein online comments will launch claims of infringement, list penalties, and then link to downloads and pages. Upon downloading or viewing these files, you may unknowingly download malicious software.
Someone even attempted this scam on us at IpHorgan – a third party contacted us to claim that the images we use on our website were their property and we were guilty of infringement. Of course, we knew that all our images were properly licensed, so we did not fall for it. But it is easy to see how someone with less industry knowledge could easily have.
Virus scan software may not pick up these threats, but you should still ensure your virus protection software is always up-to-date. The best way to avoid this scam however is to not respond to the email or message, and do not click any of the links or download files. Instead, contact your lawyer to ask if there is any infringement on your part.
Spotting a scam
You always have a hunch when you might be getting conned. It may be the context is off, that the manner of writing is unusual, or some small signal that things are not right. Follow that instinct, and be wary of malintent. If you receive a comment on an online post, an email, a text, or even a response on a “Contact Us” page, look for signs.
- Does it have a reputable author? Is the person who left the comment “real”? Do they have a last name? A business they represent? Can you find them on a company website, or LinkedIn? Try to limit broad Google searches, scammers have come a long way and can manipulate results to make their credibility appear authentic.
- Does the post include links? Whether or not the links look legitimate, do not click them.
- Do you have any relationship with the business mentioned in the post that would lead you to believe there is a potential credible infringement?
- Can you respond directly to the author of the comment or email? Can you email them separately, contact them through a company email address, or message them on LinkedIn?
- A typical giveaway is when you hover your cursor over the sender’s name an unfamiliar email address is revealed.
If you know you are not using copyrighted content, or you know you have permission from the holder, this may be an empty threat.
What to do if you receive one of these messages
Firstly, do not engage with any links. If you suspect foul play, look for a way to contact the sender of the message directly. Malware comes in many forms, especially in backdoor trojans. Consult with IT about the content of any files you may have downloaded. Consult with your lawyers to ascertain if there are any legitimate claims to unlawful use. When you follow best practices to avoid malware and viruses, you are supporting your entire team and your business.
How to protect your organization from online scams
Do not download suspicious files
Most malicious software comes in the form of a downloaded file, or more specifically a .zip file. While the prospect of having an unchecked infringement may make you worried, you cannot panic. Make note of the claims, contact your lawyer, and then scan the message for malware/viruses.
Update your organization’s system
Keeping your system up-to-date will limit your vulnerabilities. You will want to run updates on your entire system whenever necessary, these are usually scheduled to limit downtime and functionality issues. Your hardware, software, and networking will all require regular updates, make sure to keep an eye on this to secure your system from threats.
Backup your data
Cloud backups do not require you to invest in physical servers or external hard drives, but you are at the whim of your cloud service provider and your connection to the internet. Having physical backup devices allows you to securely store your backup data off the network, mitigating any risks if your system does become penetrated. It makes most sense to use both physical backups and cloud backups, and to have a regularly scheduled backup calendar.
Best practices to avoid copyright infringement online
Overall you need to have a strong understanding of the use of copyright materials. If you don’t, you should have access to an attorney who does. Avoiding infringement is actually quite easy if you follow this rule: do not directly copy and reproduce anything (text, images, software, files, etc.) created by someone else online without the explicit permission of the creator. This permission might be explicit, like a CC-BY license, or it may be obtained directly from the creator, in which case it should be kept on file.
Another way to avoid these kinds of pitfalls is to have strong IP representation at your disposal. If you receive notice from anyone, legitimate or not, that you are infringing on their IP–contact your lawyer. There is usually an easy fix, such as receiving permission to use content, or changing the content to unlicensed free use. While infringement is serious business, it is very common for unlicensed content to be used to threaten action against companies.
When you want to be certain and secure, contact IpHorgan. We have decades of experience defending our clients against all kinds of disingenuous claims!
At IpHorgan, we offer you insight that can only be acquired and meticulously developed during our 15 year history as a team with over 200 years cumulative professional experience working on intellectual property transactions with businesses in nearly every sector of the U.S. and global economy.