Your website is up and running!
Whether it’s a business site or one built for personal reasons, a lot of effort and expense was put into its creation. Now you need to make sure no one arbitrarily takes your materials. Whether it’s scam artists cut-and-pasting your content on their sites or someone innocently taking one of your original photos, the Internet is rife with copyright infringement.
Here are some basic things to know about website copyright.
Know the process is easy
All it takes to have website copyright is to put the universal copyright symbol © on your site, along with the date of publication (typically the year your site launched) and your name. That’s it. You now have legal rights to your original website content.
Formally registering with the U.S. Copyright Office is not strictly necessary, but it’s still recommended. It’s only $35 and having official paperwork makes it easier if you ever end up in court over copyright infringement.
Know who created what content
If you produced the content yourself, this question is easy enough—it’s covered under copyright law. But it’s different if you hire someone else. If you have regular W-2 employees, they are formally under your business umbrella. Your business owns what they produce, so their writing, graphics and photos would be copyrighted.
But what if you hire an independent contractor to write regular updates to your site? Or to take photos or design a nice-looking header? The law presumes the contractor owns this work unless you get it specified in writing that all rights are transferable to you upon payment for the work.
Know what can’t be copyrighted
Getting a copyright for your website doesn’t automatically protect every piece of content or idea. There are certain aspects of a website that can’t gain legal protection.
Graphic designers put a great deal of thought into the “look and feel” of a website, but the final result remains something that’s still intangible and cannot be copyrighted. In that same vein, the layout of a website cannot be copyrighted, particularly with so many businesses using templates generated by their Content Management System (CMS).
Do you have user-generated content?
Examples of this would be areas for product reviews, comments on articles or message boards. Even though it’s hosted on your platform, the user who submitted the content is considered the copyright owner. Something else you might find surprising is that your domain name cannot be “copywriter.” But since you presumably own it anyway, it probably won’t make a difference.
What can be copyrighted is the original work that you and your company create and post online. Articles, PDFs, images, graphics and logos are all classic examples of copyrighted material. You worked to create them. Make sure you protect them.