It?s unfortunate that many people play fast and loose with copyrighted
works, but the scenario you describe is sadly common.
Here?s a rundown of why a lawsuit most likely isn?t feasible, and how
you might instead deal with the situation.
According to Dana Singer, an attorney who has aided many artistic
groups on copyright issues, ?the law mandates that the proper
copyright forms must be filed *before* the lawsuit can begin.? (?Stage
Writer?s Handbook,? p. 10
In other words, unless the photographer?s website had been filed with
the U.S. Copyright Office *before* the Canadian website ?borrowed? or
?stole? from it, you cannot file a lawsuit. (The photographs probably
have been registered, but since it was not these, but the layout, some
wording, and some buttons [elements of the website] that were
violated, you?re out of luc--unless someone had the foresight to
register. Since this is rarely done, however, I am assuming it wasn?t
done in this case, either.)
For information about registering websites, see Circular 66 at the
U.S. Copyright Office: http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ66.html
In addition, it's unusual to sue outright when a relatively small
amount has been taken. (It?s one thing to take someone else?s
photograph and call it your own; it?s another to steal part of the
layout of a website.) Most commonly, the copyright holder will send a
strongly worded letter to the offender, demanding that they remove the
material at once. This is usually enough, since most copyright theft
is the result of ignorance of the law. If a letter from the copyright
holder doesn?t work, a letter from an attorney typically will.
The question of how much something must change in order to not violate
copyright is a question of ?fair use.? There is no easy answer about
what constitutes fair use, however. Judges and attorneys look at how
much was stolen from the body of the work. The less taken, the more
likely it is to be called "fair use." But even a small amount taken
from the "heart" of the work can be a severe copyright violation. You
can see this is a bit subjective!
Judges and attorneys also look at the purpose of the ?borrowed? work,
and the effect on the original copyright holder?s market.
For a detailed look at fair use, check out ?Copyright & Fair Use? at
Stanford University Libraries:
I hope this gives you a clearer understanding of the situation--and
remedies you might take. If I am wrong about the website in question
not being registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, please let me
know through a clarification, before you rate this Answer.
Researcher?s personal knowledge
A search of the U.S. Copyright Office website
A Google search for ?fair use?