Thursday, August 5, 2010

Protecting Your Website

In reviewing this recent article about a law firm that is primarily involved in settling copyright infringement lawsuits involving downloads of movies from BitTorrent (including The Hurt Locker which I have previously discussed), it serves as an overlooked reminder for protection of intellectual property rights – copyright your website.

The U.S. Copyright Group claims that they never had a live site (located at similar to the one located at The U.S. Copyright Group’s website does not look this way.

However, this may serve as an important reminder that a website may be copyrighted as to the text and pictures (and the compilation and/or arrangement of these elements) located on the web. Time, effort, energy, creativity, research, development and marketing decisions go into many companies’ outward public appearance – such as brochures, advertisements, press kits, and press releases.

Many of these materials are copyrighted to protect from having anyone else copy these efforts. Websites should be thought of similarly. It is fairly easy to copy someone’s website (and in fact, very often, the underlying code to produce such a website can be easily reproduced). Some also offer a service on how to copy other websites.

There are copyright infringement lawsuits in instances where a copyrighted website is lifted and posted at other locations. See, Inc. v., Inc., 679 F. Supp. 2d 312 (E.D.N.Y. 2010) (where defendant used over 900 copyrighted images from Plaintiff's website). See also SMC Promotions, Inc., et al. v. SMC Promotions, et al., 355 F. Supp. 2d 1127 (C.D.Cal. 2005) (where defendant used copyrighted photos and product descriptions from plaintiff's online members-only catalog).

For those who hire web designers to create their websites, they should make sure that there are proper contracts in place to ensure that the designer has created an original work and that the resulting website is not infringing on anyone else’s work. Also, a copyright registration for the website is necessary in order for U.S. based authors to sue possible infringers.

For the most part websites contain text and visual works which in combination comprise the copyrighted work. In the course of a copyright application, the applicant must disclaim any part of the works which they cannot claim copyright protection in (such as a previous work or a work not made by the author).

Also if a website contains video and or sound recordings (such as background music), I would recommend that this material be separately copyrighted (apart from the website itself) as these materials could be easily lifted separately and may have their own independent worth. (Also, an applicant should realize that when a deposit for registration for a copyright which includes “screen shots” of the website – it does not include the contents of the videos or the background music – and thus would not be registered.)

(Full disclosure: Collen IP does offer copyright registration services for websites including enhanced services under its Brutus® Protection Program.)

No comments:

Post a Comment