What is a cease and desist letter and what to do if you receive one


5th May 2021

If you have received a cease and desist letter then it is worth checking the details. We look at what you need to know about copyright infringement in this article.

Copyright infringement

There is a need to tread carefully when using material. Copyright protects creative work – for example, a film, music, drawing or sculpture.

In the UK and EU copyright is automatic, there is no registration process like you would register a trade mark. The USA is an example of a country that operates a registration system for copyright – something to bear in mind.

Once the work is created, presuming it ticks the boxes of being a copyright work, copyright exists.

What happens if you receive a cease and desist letter?

The example that is commonly seen is receiving a cease and desist letter for using imagery on your website that you do not have the licence to use. A suitable image may have been found online and used without thinking about whether you have permission to use it.

You might then receive a letter from the photographer or someone representing the photographer, possibly from licence holders such as Getty or Shutterstock. The cease and desist letter that you receive might say something like ‘we own the rights to this image, here is the image (screenshot of it on your website). The usual licence fee is ‘x’, we want ‘y’ because you’ve infringed upon my copyright’.

If you haven’t got a licence to use the work, you will need to take the image down and negotiate the level of damages. There is usually room for negotiation if you have received a cease and desist letter, especially if you promptly comply with removing the image.

We have also looked at what to do if you believe there has been an infringement of copyright in your work here.

If you need legal advice on copyright, contact our intellectual property experts.

If you have been affected by anything in this article

Speak to one of our intellectual property specialists

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