A “copyright” is a right that protects the creator of an original work of authorship. The copyright gives the creator of an original work the exclusive right to determine whether, and under what conditions, this original work may be used by others. The copyright owner has the exclusive right to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material, or software, or a compilation of such work, and to authorize others to do the same. Copyright has the opportunity to work among many platforms, in this article you will learn how to copyright a website.
Can You Copyright Your Website?
The short answer: Maybe. An explanation of the copyright laws may help you answer that question. What many people do not realize is copyright protection exists beginning the moment the work is created and fixed in a tangible form such that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. You do not need to take any affirmative steps to get copyright protection. If your website satisfies the requirement of being an original work of authorship, a copyright in your website exists the moment it is created and perceptible.
Depending on the content of your website, your website may be eligible for copyright registration with the United States Copyright Office. You are not required to formally register your copyright. However, you will have to register it with the United States Copyright Office if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of the copyright. If you produce your website for commercial purposes, and your website satisfies the requirements for registration, registration is a particularly significant benefit.
Registration of a copyright in your website provides you with the best protection against infringement and plagiarism.
Excerpt of Guidance Issued by the United States Copyright Office Applicable to Registering Copyrights in Websites
You may be able to register a website or a specific web page if it satisfies the statutory requirements for an original work of authorship or a compilation or collective work. Circular 34 issued by the United States Copyright Office explains the requirements for registering a copyright to a collective work. Under Circular 34:
- A registration for a collective work covers the copyrightable authorship in the selection, coordination, or arrangement of the work.
- A registration for a collective work covers the collective work as a whole and may cover any individual works contained in it if (1) the collective work and the individual works are owned by the same party, (2) the individual works have not been previously published or previously registered, and (3) the individual works are not in the public domain.
The Copyright Office has issued specific guidance for registering a website in Circular 66. It explains the process specifically for registering websites.
In short, you can register a copyright in a website as a compilation or a collective work if there is a sufficient amount of creative expression in the selection, coordination, or arrangement of the content appearing on the individual web pages or the website as a whole. Likewise, a website may qualify as a compilation or a collective work if there is sufficient creativity in the overall hierarchy of the website, such as the ways in which the pages are connected or linked with one another.
Many people hire a website designer to create their website. If your website was created by such a website designer, be sure that the contract between you and your designer addresses ownership of the copyrights in both the design and the coding.
What is the Best Way to Protect Your Copyrights in Your Website?
As already noted earlier, any copyrights you have in the website exist as soon as you create your website and it is perceptible on the computer or other device. You will need protections in place in order to protect the copyright within the website. There are a few different angles you can work to provide the utmost protection to your website.
Registering your copyright with the United States Copyright Office provides an official public record of your copyright ownership. Registration puts the world on notice of your copyrights.
You need to submit an application, a non-refundable fee, and the website material (called a “deposit”) you wish to register. You can upload it or send it on a CD by mail. Visit the Copyright Office website for complete information.
Updates and Modifications to Your Website
Your registered copyright only extends to the website material included in the deposit. You must separately register your copyrights to any update to the website to have full protection in the new material. Whether you will have to register your copyrights each time your website is updated will depend upon the nature of the materials posted on the site and the nature of the website itself. You will want to consult with an experienced copyright attorney for guidance on that point.
Remedies for Copyright Infringement
As an owner of registered copyrighted material, you may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees if you are successful in a copyright infringement lawsuit. Those who infringe on any grounds of your copyrighted property are able to be taken to court in order to pay the necessary damages.
Your copyrights are recognized everywhere in the United States and its territories. However, copyright law is only national in scope. Copyright protection for any work including a website depends on the laws of each country where you may want copyright protection. This means that infringement that occurs outside of the jurisdiction of the United States cannot be remedied under the U.S. Copyright Act because United States copyright laws do not apply outside of the United States’ jurisdiction.
International protection for copyrights falls mostly under the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works and Universal Copyright treaties. Nearly all the most important countries in the world are parties to them and members of the Berne Union that recognize copyrights internationally.
An American creator is entitled to protection against the infringement of original work in a foreign jurisdiction that is a member of the Berne Union. The American creator need not register the work in the foreign jurisdiction. An infringement that occurs in a foreign country must be brought in the courts of the foreign country and litigated under that country’s copyright laws.
Contact KPPB LAW for More Information About Copyrighting Your Website
To determine the extent of your copyrights in your website, speak to the intellectual property attorneys at KPPB LAW. Their experience with copyrights will enable you to understand your copyrights in your website and help you protect those rights in the best way possible.