In most cases, your website is your first impression on a potential new customer, investor, or employee. It differentiates you from your competitors, and provides you with a valuable opportunity to establish a unique brand presence.
Long story short: a website is a powerful strategic tool in your company’s arsenal. How to best use it? Entire industries are built around answering this question. But before you hire someone to leverage your website’s potential, or do it yourself, there is a more basic question to answer: how to protect its content?
After all: if competitors can freely copy from your website, there is no reason for you to invest in it. Luckily, your website is eligible for copyright protection, and we can help you make the most of that protection.
What is Copyright?
Copyright is the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, display, and produce derivatives of an original work. The copyright to an original work ordinarily falls to the creator of that work, although he/she may assign it to someone else (as is often prescribed in employment contracts). Not all original works are eligible for copyright protection. Copyrightable works include the following categories:
Musical works (including accompanying words)
Dramatic works (including any accompanying music)
Pantomimes and choreographic works
Pictorial, graphic and sculptural works
Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
Architectural plans, drawings, and buildings
As this list suggests, copyright was originally aimed at protecting artistic works. However, the categories of copyrightable work are constructed very broadly. For example, software code can be eligible for copyright protection as a literary work.
Can Websites Qualify for Copyright Protection?
Given the broad interpretation of copyrightable categories, websites are definitely eligible for copyright protection. This protection will extend to the website’s graphics, content, and visual elements.
Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation. In some of these instances, other forms of intellectual property might offer protection.
Similarly, copyright only protects original works. Therefore, the following elements of a website will not fall under copyright protection:
Links to other websites
Work that is in the public domain (i.e. not created by you)
User generated content
Domain names, format, layout, look and feel (although there are instances when you might want to look into design patent to protect this)
How does Copyright Protection Work?
As a matter of law, copyright exists as soon as an original work has been created – provided, however, that it is fixed in tangible form. Something is considered fixed in tangible form as soon as it has been documented and communicated in a way that can be objectively observable. Practically, this means that your website’s graphics, content, and visual elements are protected by copyright as soon as they have been developed. From this moment onwards, you have the exclusive right to display, reproduce, and distribute the copyrighted aspects of your website.
In this regard, copyright is the exception to the rule when it comes to IP protection: you do not need to register copyright before it exists. Registration is essential for effective enforcement of your rights, however.
Why You Should Register Copyright
Registering your copyright with the United States Copyright Office (USCO) is a key step towards effective and enforceable copyright protection. It serves as an effective signal to possible plagiarizers that you are the owner of the copyrighted work in question, and that you intend to prosecute infringements on your copyright.
Secondly, you will need proof of registration of your copyright if you want to pursue any legal action in response to an infringement of your copyrights. Whether you will be looking to force someone to remove plagiarized work, or claim damages, you will need to prove your right to the work in question through registration.
How to Register Copyright
Registering a work for copyright protection is a relatively simple process. To register a work, you need to submit a completed application form, pay a fee, and provide a non-returnable copy of the work that is to be registered. The entire application process is available on USCO’s online system: eCO eService. USCO also provides a step-by-step guide of the registration process.
Contact an Experienced Copyright Attorney
There are a lot of benefits to getting expert legal advice when it comes to copyright protection. A copyright attorney can provide you with greater understanding of your original works and the best way to protect your intellectual property. You will also minimize the risk of having your copyright registration application rejected. By contacting a copyright attorney, you will be receiving proactive risk management that will help you avoid problems before they arise.
Contact LawTrades today, our expert copyright lawyers can help protect your original work quickly and affordably.