Copyright a Website

Category: Webmaster

You may put a lot of work into your blog or Website, only to find someone stealing it. They call it borrowing and think you should be flattered. But it's theft of your intellectual property. You can guard against this form of thievery by enforcing your copyright in a Website…

Copyright a Website

How to Copyright Your Website

Copyright is a universally recognized legal principle that basically says "what you create is yours and people can't use it without your permission." The word "use" is critical and the source of heated debate online. Many laymen assume that if you don't make a separate copy of a Web page, but merely link to it, then you are not violating the owner's copyright. That isn't the case, courts have ruled.

Sure, if you add a link to your site that takes a visitor to another site, then you're not violating copyright. But if you "frame" someone else's Web page in your own site, then you're using it illegally - unless you have obtained the copyright owner's permission to use his or her creation in that way.

Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to do anything to claim the copyright in your work; copyright arises automatically when you create the work. But to document formally that you did, indeed, create the work and when you created it, there are several steps you can take. Some cost money.

You can add a copyright notice to your creation. "Copyright 2010 by John Doe, all rights reserved" is a standard statement. You can also give away some rights in your copyright statement: i.e., "Copyright 2010 by John Doe; permission to copy and distribute for non-commercial purposes is hereby granted." That means anyone can use your work unless they're making money by doing so.

What if Your Copyright is Violated?

They don't have to be selling copies of your work in order to be making money. Displaying your work next to ads for which they are paid by the click is a "commercial purpose" prohibited by such a copyright notice. Using your description of a gem's metaphysical and healing properties to sell jewelry would be another example of a commercial purpose. Plagiarizing your article on how to secure a wireless router, and selling it to a computer magazine would similarly qualify. There are even "article generators" online that grab chunks of text from multiple articles, and glob it into a new "article" that is published online as an original work. These articles usually don't make any sense to a human, but search engines can sometimes be fooled by them. Tools like Copyscape can help you find unauthorized copies of your work on the Web.

Registering your creations with the government copyright office of your home nation is the best legal protection you can get. Basically, you send a copy of your Web pages to the copyright office along with your registration information: name, date of creation, title, etc. The U.S. Copyright Office charges fees ranging from $35 to register works electronically. But let me reiterate that you DO NOT need to register a work with the copyright office in order to claim copyright. Copyright is automatic, implicit upon creation, even if you don't label it with a copyright notice. But if you want to be able to prove that you did in fact create and copyright a specific thing, registering can be beneficial.

If your copyright is violated there are several steps you can take of increasing effort and expense. Sometimes a simple courteous notice to the violator via email is sufficient. "I didn't know, sorry" is a common response. If that doesn't work, you can track down the violator's Web hosting company with a formal notice of copyright infringement and demand that the offending content be removed. The WHOIS database can help you find the owner of a website, or the web hosting company they use.

Web hosts are generally immune from legal liability for infringing materials they host unless they have been put on notice that they are doing so. To avoid being sued for millions of dollars, most Web hosts will act very swiftly to block or "take down" allegedly infringing material. The violator will usually get a "take it down or we'll cut off your Web site" notice from the host, and that gets people's attention! If you have copyright issues pertaining to a Google search engine listing, check out Google's Digital Millennium Copyright Act page.

Taking someone to court over infringing of your copyright is a last resort. It's a lengthy, expensive process that's only worthwhile if the copyright has great financial value to you.

Do you have something to say about copyrighting a website? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Copyright a Website"

Posted by:

22 Jul 2010

1./ What's the difference between copyrighting and trademarking? I was putting Copyright on my work pictures but then read an article that said I could only put Trademark on them
2./If you Copyright your website with government and then change it do you have to copyright it again?

Posted by:

Gary L.
23 Jul 2010

Please comment on the value of the Creative Commons license I have posted to my profile on Facebook. Thanks.

Posted by:

24 Jul 2010

Way to go, Bob.

And nice write up about copyright as well.


Posted by:

26 Jul 2010

Thanks mucho. I've been trying to find on my own all the info in your article. Thanks.

Posted by:

14 Sep 2010

Thank you for this very informative article. I recently made a website, and I was wondering what it takes to copyright it.

Posted by:

24 Nov 2011

Hi Great post i have found some good information in yours post keep posting and is your deposit service created by computer scientists and entrepreneurs keen on solving problems to offer simple and efficient issues.

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Copyright a Website (Posted: 22 Jul 2010)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved