As a published writer, you take immense pride in the research that you do and the quality of work that you produce. Throughout many years of writing, you have built a strong client base of people who love your work and trust what you provide. However, you recently took on a project, and to your surprise, another writer claimed that you infringed on their material.

You know that you are innocent but now worry that this individual could sue you and even worse, damage or destroy your excellent reputation. What you need to remember is that under what is termed “fair use,” you can legally use portions of another’s person’s work to create new content, and then parody, criticize, adapt, or add without getting approval from the original creator. In fact, under “fair use,” you are not even required to credit the original author.

Problems occur when someone feels that you took their work without getting permission and then reused it in a way that was not originally intended or under the objection of the author. However, if that individual removes your written piece or purposely tries to damage your reputation, not only is that action unethical, but it is also illegal.

In reality, if the original author sent you a cease-and-desist letter, that person now risks you filing a lawsuit to seek financial compensation. Also, if the author sent you a DMCA takedown notice under false allegations or to harass you, that individual committed perjury, which has its own set of consequences.

Even if another author was not malicious, making a meritless accusation of copyright infringement could backfire. All professional writers are protective of their work, so when one author sees something that looks familiar, they are often too quick to assume that someone stole their material. For this reason, writers must carefully analyze a situation such as this to avoid wrongly accusing someone of unauthorized copying.

If another writer filed a claim or copyright infringement complaint against you, you could file a counterclaim under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to have the piece republished. However, for your protection, you should hire an intellectual property attorney to help with the DMCA counterclaim. Although the process is relatively straightforward, this is not something that you want to do without legal guidance.

When you’re accused of copyright infringement, it is vital that you do everything possible to protect your reputation. Especially for work published online, word spreads quickly. For that reason, you need to take immediate and appropriate action. By hiring a reputable attorney, you will know the correct avenues to follow in defending your rights as a freelance writer.

Someone who assumes that you stole their work is a dangerous game to play. Of course, there are laws in place to protect authors from actual copyright infringement, but as long as you followed a set of subjective requirements, you have nothing to fear. Instead of spending time worrying about a DCMA complaint or a cease-and-desist letter, contact an attorney today who specializes in cases of false allegations of copyright infringement.