Did you know that copyright law extends online? Website developers and website owners need to be aware of and understand the laws regarding the copyrights of their websites. People often wonder if their website is protected from theft if “All Rights Reserved” or “Copyright {date}” is placed at the bottom of their web pages.

Technically, any creative work is owned by the creator as soon as it comes into existence. You do not need to place these phrases on your website to have copyright protection, although placing them on the site is a good reminder to others not to copy any part of your website.

Artists, authors, and script writers have always been concerned about forgers and plagiarists. The digital world of websites, blog posts, photos, videos, and MP’s present an added concern since digital material is particularly easy to copy and paste.

Fortunately for you, the law is on the side of the creator. Blog posts that you wrote or hired someone to write for you, with the understanding that you would post it under your name, are your personal property, even if there is no copyright notation on the website. Software and source code is also protected.

What Might be on Your Website that Cannot be Copyrighted?

Ideas and facts cannot be copyrighted but expression and interpretation of those ideas and facts can be. For example, facts about Nikola Tesla’s life, such as his birth and his inventions, cannot be owned by anyone. However, your uniquely expressed opinion of his life and work — if expressed in your own words — belongs to you and is copyrighted.

Public domain works cannot be copyrighted. If you have posted an excerpt from Canterbury Tales with images that are licensed for reuse, these can be copied by anyone. Your uniquely expressed opinion of the literary work and images cannot be copied or used by others without your permission.

What About the Images on Your Website?

Many people have the false idea that as long as they can save an image to their computer, they can use it. Many images on the internet have owners, just like blog posts do.

If you have posted an image or video that you took yourself or hired to have made for you, that is your personal possession and no one should copy and use it without your permission.

By the same token, every website owner should be careful that the images they use are copyright free or licensed for reuse. Pixabay is an example of a site with copyright free images. Anyone is welcome to sign up for a free account then download and use any Pixabay image.

Google has images but they are not license for reuse. When looking for an image at images.google.com, click on Tools and then Usage Rights. In the drop down menu choose Labeled for Reuse and copy any of those images that appear.

Giving a photographer credit (attribution) does not necessarily mean that someone else can use that image. In most cases, permission from the photographer must be granted or a copyright law has been violated.

Is it Necessary to Register Your Website?

It is not necessary to register your website in order to own the copyrights to your creative work. However, if you plan to take a plagiarist to court, your work must be registered.

So if your website is unique and valuable and the temptation for others to copy your work is real, now is the time to register your website. A lawyer that specializes in business litigation can advise you.

What to Do if Your Website Material is Being Used by Someone Else?

You can easily learn if someone has taken your material and is using it for themselves by using the plagiarism-catching software at Copyscape. Simply enter the URL of your web page and Copyscape will search the internet for duplicate content.

If Copyscape comes up with a match, contact the owner of the website and insist that they remove the material they took from your website. In most cases, the owner will comply. If not, a letter from your lawyer should get their attention.


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