Copyright for Website Content – A Web Developer’s Guide

Posted on Jul 17, 2013
By Rhonda Hurwitz

Each week, we hear from website owners whose websites were deliberately copied or scraped.

Often, site owners find this out by pure serendipity, and are rightfully concerned and confused.

Common questions include:

  • Is my website content copyright protected?
  • How do I protect my website content from theft?
  • Should I take special steps to register my website content?
  • What should I do if my website is copied?

With a considerable investment in web design, unique web content, and search rankings, website content abuses can be especially damaging.

Copyright for Websites: Developers Play an Important Role

By offering clients basic information, as well as the tools they need to protect their website investment, website developers can play an important role in safeguarding content.

To begin, let’s take these website copyright FAQs one by one:

1. Is my website content protected by copyright?

Content is copyrighted the second it is created and fixed in tangible form – i.e., saved on your computer, posted on your website, etc. In other words, if you have it in your head, it’s not copyrighted. When you write it down, it is.

Note that whether you add the © copyright symbol to your website or not, you own the copyrights to your content.

2. How do I protect my website content from theft?

Online respect of copyrights is basically an honor system. Everyone should ask permission before using another’s content – but online copying and pasting is so easy, not everyone does.

While it’s impossible to completely prevent content theft, there are steps you can take to pre-empt problems before they occur:

    • Decide which rights you plan to reserve or share; i.e., all rights reserved (the traditional © default notice), some rights reserved (one of the six Creative Commons notices), etc.
    • Add, or link to, a copyright policy that further spells out your terms of use (what others can or can’t do with your original content).
    • Post a copyright notice visibly on every web page. The more visible the copyright notice, the more likely your work will be used correctly.
    • Add an instant licensing plugin, to enable republication and reuse with permission,and proper attribution. Such tools also preserve your branding and ensure that the reuse is faithful to the original. By doing so, you also maximize your paid content opportunities.
    • Add anti-piracy software to quickly detect and resolve infringements.

iCopyright’s toolkit easily accomplishes these steps.

The free iCopyright plugin for WordPress, Drupal, and other CMS adds a visible copyright notice, a customizable copyright policy, and a toolbar to automate reuse permissions and increase paid licensing opportunities.

Clients can also activate Discovery™ advanced anti-piracy detection software to automatically patrol the web 24/7 to detect and resolve copyright infringements, at a nominal cost.

3. Should I take special steps to register website content?

Creation of work in fixed form automatically establishes copyright, so, as mentioned earlier, this step is generally not necessary for most websites.

    • However, if you or your clients are in the business of creating large amounts of content on an ongoing basis, consider registering content with the U.S. Copyright Office (or your national copyright authority).
    • Doing so generally provides greater protections. For example, registering works in the U.S. provides access to statutory damages and attorney’s fees, rather than just actual damages, if you prevail in a claim of copyright infringement.

To learn more about the copyright system in the U.S., visit the U.S. Copyright Office website.

4. What should I do when website content is copied?

In the U.S., you can use the DMCA takedown process to get infringing content taken down quickly. (Learn how to use a DMCA takedown notice to protect your online brand)

iCopyright’s Discovery™ anti-piracy service simplifies and manage this process, with built-in tools like ISP lookup, DMCA takedown letter templates, incident tracking, etc.

Takeaway: Provide Copyright Awareness and Anti-Piracy Protection

You don’t have to be a legal expert to provide added value to your web dev clients. Simply educate about copyrights, and provide access to anti-piracy protection software.

    • Share basic information to help clients understand copyright dos and don’ts, with our free “Bloggers Guide to Copyright Protection” .
    • Offer to install basic copyright and anti-piracy protection software – iCopyright’s plugin provides multi-level protection, and is a good choice.

Keep your clients well informed, and well protected!

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