Can I file a copyright infringement lawsuit without a lawyer?

courtroom2CC0You have the right to represent yourself in a lawsuit, but it is not recommended. An intellectual property attorney can give you a more objective opinion about the strength of your case, and can pursue a lawsuit more effectively than you could alone. Litigation should not be taken lightly. The value of the case must be weighed against the cost of pursuing a lawsuit. You also need to have some confidence that the defendant will be able to pay a settlement or judgment. Another factor to consider is that if you file a lawsuit and lose, a judge may order you to pay the defendant’s attorney’s fees.

Properly pursuing a lawsuit is harder than people may realize. In a 2011 report by the Federal Judicial Center, judges said that people representing themselves in federal court often have these issues: unnecessary or illegible submissions, problems with responses to motions, lack of legal knowledge that would help their case, failure to know when to object, and failure to understand the legal consequences of their actions and inactions.

If you registered your copyright before the infringement, you have additional rights, including the ability to recover attorney’s fees and statutory damages. If that is the case, an attorney may be more likely to represent you on a contingency basis, meaning that the attorney is only paid if and when they win your case. If you did not register your copyright before the infringement, you still have rights (and you can still file a lawsuit once you register), but an attorney may not be willing to take your case on a contingency basis.

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