Nearly every company has a website these days. In fact, the web has redefined the way businesses build and identify their brand by providing an effective and direct way to reach customers and market products.
Yet, if you develop a creative site design, compelling copy and original sounds, be aware that you may be unintentionally inspiring your competitors. Stolen text and illegally "borrowed" images and sounds often flood the internet, even though such actions violate copyright law.
The best solution to protect your brand online? Register your website's copyright.
Who owns a copyright?
To register a copyright, you must be either the original author or have rights granted by the author. Developing a website typically involves collaboration, so rights can be difficult to determine. That's why it's best to decide on authorship before site creation. Usually, the technical side of the site, such as the HTML code and programming, is owned by the outside developer while content is owned by the company.
What a copyright protects
A copyright is actually automatic. As soon as you develop your site, it immediately has some copyright protections. Your website copyright gives you exclusive rights to the site's content. And copyright law gives the copyright owner exclusive rights over the following:
- Reproduction of the work
- Preparation of derivative works
- Distribution of copies of the work to the public
- Public display and performance of the work
Why register a copyright
You do not have to display an official copyright notice on your website to preserve your rights under the law. However, web content is frequently (and mistakenly) viewed as free for the taking. That's why so many businesses register copyrights with the federal government and display the notice on their site. Simply place the word "Copyright" with the company name and the creation date on the website. Then, officially register your site with the U.S. Copyright Office.
While not mandatory to secure your rights, formally registering a copyright and inserting the copyright © notice gives you added legal protection against infringement. This is especially important in the electronic world where "borrowing" text, photos, sounds and images is as simple as a few clicks. And a copyright generally lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years
When in doubt, use professionals
Defending copyright via the web isn't easy, but officially copyrighting your website offers added protection. Specialized companies offer online tracking that alerts copyright owners when their materials are being used by others. Services like these help the fight against electronic copyright infringement.
Websites can be a single page or thousands of pages and are subject to update. All of this makes the copyright registration process complicated, and it can be difficult to ensure all aspects of the site are protected.
Online services like LegalZoom offer copyright registration services. And if you have been the victim of copyright infringement, discuss your options with an intellectual property attorney.