Registering copyrights for your creative works such as your film, book, software or photograph helps protect the value of your work. Copyrights can help deter copiers and will help you should you end up in court.
Copyrights, trademarks and patents are used to protect intellectual property. The difference between them is what they protect. Copyrights are most often used to protect creative works such as writing, music or photographs. Trademarks protect a company's product or services; however, it is not formally "on the books" unless it is a registered trademark filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office. Patents protect innovations.
To register a copyright, you must file with the United States Copyright Office. It is advised to pre-register if you feel your works may be infringed before you release it. If you feel your creative work may have value, you may benefit from protecting it before you finish the project.
If first helps if you have pre-registered or registered your creative work. If you are not yet registered, it will help if you can prove the work is uniquely yours. If it is a commercial piece or a high-value item, be prepared to show how infringement may have caused damage to your company and/or reputation.
Just ask. The first step is to ask them to stop using your creative work. They may not understand copyright law, or they likely thought you wouldn't notice or that "everyone is doing it" so they didn't see the harm. If someone has mimicked your artwork on their website or have copied your article, often they will take it down voluntarily.
Send a Cease and Desist Letter. A Cease and Desist Letter formally informs the infringer that they must stop using your creative work or you'll take legal action. You can make this letter using Rocket Lawyer or with the help of your lawyer. Include with the letter documentation that shows you own the copyright. Also, keep a copy of all correspondence for your records.
Hire a copyright lawyer. If the infringer doesn't respond, you may have to hire a lawyer to help you navigate the legal process and seek damages. It will help your case if you keep meticulous records and can prove that you own the rights to the creative works and that you have suffered damages.
It will help if you have had the creative work resigured with the United States Copyright Office. If you end up in court, it may prove challenging to win your case if you do not have proper evidence to support your claim.
Besides your copyright paperwork, you may also benefit from gathering your notes related to the creative work, images, witnesses, publishing information, emails, written correspondence, phone conversations and anything else that can help prove that the creative works were made by you. You'll also want to gather proof that your copyrighted work was copied and when. You'll have to prove that the infringer didn't believe the item was protected by "fair use" and that the copied item is similar enough to your work to be considered a copy.
Copyright cases can be challenging, but if your work has value, the case may be well worth pursuing.