CopyrightsIntellectual Property

How to Copyright Your Website

Copyrighting your website is a complex but necessary process to ensure that your creation is not pirated

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When it comes to establishing a business, market presence is considered to be the most vital step. Websites play a major role in connecting businesses to prospective consumers in the industry. Be it a small scale business or large scale business, websites have always proved to be useful in communicating the vision, mission and prospects of the business to the entire world. Further, with wide usage of the website and millions of visitors going through the website, it is always necessary to design the website in a manner that attracts the viewers to revisit the website often. In this article, let’s see how to copyright your website.

In general, a website has to be attractive, informative and convenient so that anyone can have access to it. But, with an increase in cybercrimes, poaching of content and piracy issues reaching their maximum, is your website and its content protected? Is someone trying to gain free benefits from your content and claiming it to be their original content? Further, do you feel that you need to have protection for your website? If the answers are affirmative then, it’s the right time for you to get your website copyrighted and protected.

What Is a Website?

In common parlance, a website is a collection of various web pages under a single domain name. Many organisations use websites as a tool to deliver their information to the common public. Moreover, the website comes in nearly various forms with a lot of creative content, and it is that content that can be copyrighted, not the entire website.

Need to Copyright your Website 

A lot of effort is put into creating a website – right from designing the website content to marketing the website. Moreover, it involves an abundance of time, money and hard work to create a website. What we think is what we create. Ideas that generate will convert into a tangible website form and that makes it copyrightable.

In India, once any website is published, it automatically becomes copyrighted material. At the bottom of the webpage, we will find the disclaimer regarding the copyright. (Photo to be inserted).

It is truly believed that creativity should be acknowledged and that’s what copyright does, it gives credit to the website owners for using their intellectuals into creating an extraordinary piece of work because website designing is no joke.

Benefits of Registering for Copyrights

When our website is automatically copyrighted, what is needed to protect it, is the running question in the mind of the website owners. Even though automatic protection is available to the website, there are ample benefits available to the registered copyrighted website:

  • It limits the copy and redistribution of content
  • It helps to curb the theft of content and images on the website
  • Moreover, it acts as proof of ownership
  • It enables the website owner to take legal actions against someone who tries to steal your content
  • If in case, website content is to generate income, and in such cases, if the content is utilised by someone else, then the original content loses its value and can have a negative impact on the finance of the owner
  • There are chances that when the content is duplicated, it might direct the potential users to the other site and decrease the profile visit count on the original site.

REGISTER YOUR COPYRIGHTS

Who Owns the Website

The next question is who is the rightful owner of the website? Is it the person who designs the website or the one for whom the website has been designed?

The answer is quite simple: if the employee of the business designs the content of the website, the copyright of the website will belong to the owner of the business. But, if the business hires an independent agency to design the website for them, then the agency will be the owner of the website and a separate agreement has to be entered into between the parties for the transfer of ownership.

Similarly, there are likes and comments which are given in the blogs, articles and photos on the website which are termed third party content. The users will have ownership over the content they write on the website. However, the website owners claim the ownership by making the users agree to transfer ownership of the content by signing the agreement.

Website Elements That Can Be Protected

Website creation involves a lot of creativity and effort. Websites involve a lot of elements that are structured and put together to get a complete and comprehensive website. They are:

  1. Domain name or URL
  2. HTML source code
  3. Images and videos
  4. Text-based content
  5. Third-party content
  6. Links to another website
  7. Title of the website
  8. The layout of the website etc.

Criteria to Get Copyright Protection for the Website

  • It should be original
  • It should be in a tangible format

This implies that the web content should come out to the owner of the website and should involve a minimum amount of creativity. It should be in a form that can be perceived or reproduced or communicated which includes computers and digital media.

ELEMENTS PROTECTION REASON / JUSTIFICATION
Domain name Cannot be protected

Domain names will be exclusive and no one should copy. It is different for different websites and hence copyright protection is not given to domain names.

However, to protect your domain name, buy it from a reputed domain registration service.

Title of the website Unprotected The title of the website cannot be copyrighted as ideas and concepts are not copyrightable. Copyright does not ordinarily protect titles by themselves or names, short word combinations, slogans, short phrases, methods, plots or factual information.
Text-based content Protected Blog posts, articles and other text-based contents, if they are original work of the website owner and involve intellectual content then it is copyrightable material.
Graphics Protected Images and photographs can be copyrighted as it is the creative work of the owner. It is always better to insert a watermark on the work to ensure better security to the work
Layout Unprotected Layout and other processes of website creation cannot be copyrighted.
Audiovisual elements Protected Same as graphics, the audiovisual element of the website can be copyrighted if it is the original work of the owner. In case of someone else’s work is on the website, the ownership unless and until it transfers will not consider as work of the website owner
Third-party content Protected if an exclusive agreement is made between the parties The users will have ownership over the content they write on the website. However, the website owners claim the ownership by making the users agree to transfer ownership of the content by signing the agreement
Links to another website Unprotected
HTML source code Protected As it falls under the literary works as per section 2(o) of the Act.

 

Can You Copyright Website Templates?

Website templates are pre-designed templates that are used by website owners to design their websites. There are certain changes that are incorporated in the templates like colour schemes, images, written content.

However in such cases, the source code remains the same, so copyright infringement claims cannot be made easily. While using website templates, there will be thousands of websites that will have the same source code, web designers at times will opt for custom source code. It is legal authority to recreate the website with your own creativity with unique designs but duplication of images, source code or text from the website has no allowance. Therefore, it is always advisable to avoid using website templates and beware of piracy issues concerning website templates

There are many website templates that are pirate forms of premium templates that are available for free usage. These templates have certain malware, adware, spyware issues that might crash the website at some point in time. Having such websites might cause loss to the business and make the business more prone to other infringement complications.

Can You Copyright Blogs?

A blog is a kind of a website but a miniature version of a website. As a blogger, my entire heart and soul is put on creating good and creative content for the viewers. Not only has this creation of blog articles, videos and graphics taken a lot of effort and time but also a lot of intellectuals are put into it.

Once a blog content is complete, the bloggers will automatically get the rights over that content. There is instant protection to the content the moment it is on a blog page.  There is no such requirement for registration of copyright but it does not, however, act as proof of ownership in case of infringement. Therefore, it is always suggested to get blogs registered in a formal way.

Therefore, blogs can be copyrighted and bloggers can get protection for their work. However, there are a few things every blogger should consider before copyright:

  1. The content should be original
  2. It should involve some amount of creativity
  3. It should be in tangible form- ideas are a no-no in the copyright sector.
  4. Periodically registrations should be for the blog posts
  5. It is better to get the contents copyrighted as soon as they are registered.
  6. If blog posts involve commenting, criticizing any work – then excerpts from that work can be used.
  7. Make sure no defamatory statements are used on the website or blog. Negative comments are allowed but not defamatory statements.

How to Get Website or Blogs Registered

Copyright registration for websites and blogs can be done both ways- offline and online.

  1. Fill in the application form with prescribed fees
  2. Upload all the related documents
  3. After the application gets submitted, a diary number will provide which will be useful for further communications
  4. The search process will take place and calls for objections will take place. In the case of objections- a reply to the objection will be filed and a hearing will be set up. In case of no objections- scrutiny processes will be initiated by the examiner
  5. Further, Check for discrepancies will be in case of discrepancies-the same has to be resolved by the applicant and in case of everything being clear- registration of copyright should issue and the same will enter in the database.

An entire checklist of documents are available for reference at https://copyright.gov.in/frmCheckList.aspx

What Happens If Someone Uses the Content of the Website Without Permission 

It is a well-known fact that if someone does any unauthorised use of content belonging to someone else then it will amount to infringement and both civil and criminal remedies are available to the owner of the website.

But there are fair use exceptions that will consider while deciding infringement claims:

  1. The intention of using the content
  2. Nature of the content used
  3. Degree of similarity
  4. Extent of originality

Points to Remember

  • To claim copyright, it is necessary to mention every component of the website for which protection that explores while filling the application form
  • Similarly, copyright protection extends to those works which are part of a website when the registration is complete
  • For additional content, separate registration should be there
  • Moreover, fair use policies should be considered before claiming infringement
  • Even though the copyright is available to owners of websites as soon as it is published, it is always better to seek formal registration.

REGISTER YOUR COPYRIGHTS

Software and Copyright 

Section 2(o) includes computer software in the definition of literary work and is copyrightable. Additionally, all the rights which are available to the owner of literary work are mutants available to the author of computer software. Moreover, software programs that do not have technical aspects that involve can have protection under copyright but if the software programmes have technical effects in them, then the author will have to seek protection under patent law.

For protection under copyright, computer or software programmes needs to be

  1. Original
  2. Involve a sufficient degree of  skill and efforts
  3. It should not be copied from elsewhere.

Conditions to satisfy by the author of software application

  1. The work should be published first in India
  2. Moreover, in case the work outside India is on the date of publication the author must be a citizen of India
  3. In the case of unpublished work, the author must be a citizen of India or domiciled in India on the day of making the work published.

Identifying the Owner of the Copyright

  • An individual person who is the mind behind the creation of the software will be the owner of the computer programme
  • In the case of two or more people joined together to create it, joint authorship can be claimed
  • Additionally, in case any employee of the company or business designs any software in the course of employment, then in the absence of any agreement to the contrary, the employer will be the author of the software
  • In the case of independent contractors, the copyright ownership will vest to that contracting agency and a special agreement has to be executed for transfer of ownership.

Author of Software and Rights

  1. Economic rights
  2. Moral rights
  3. Reproduce the work
  4. Issue copies of the work to be used by other industries
  5. Other related rights.

Documents to Copyright Software

  1. In case of published or unpublished work: 3 copies of the work
  2. Further, in the case of machine-readable work: An identified portion of the work
  3. In the case of computer programmes- the first and last few pages of source code
  4. The page contains a copyright notice.

In order to protect the trade secrets, it is always advisable to disclose only the small extract of software and not the entire one as once the application for copyright files, it will call for public inspection.

Piracy Issues

Software piracy means illegal or unauthorised copy and distribution of copyrighted software. Further, this can be in the process of downloading, sharing, selling or installing samples of the software work and copying them into multiple computers.

In case anyone uses the software which does not fall under the category of fair use of the work for educational purposes or without giving due credits to the owner, then it will amount to software infringement or piracy and is punishable under the law.

Piracy of software can cause immense loss to the business financially and can also affect the reputation or goodwill of the business in the market.  It is very certain that the pirated software has some defects that can affect the normal running of the software and having this pirated software will affect the reputation of the company having the original software.

There are chances that the common public might fall into the trap and have confusion between the pirate version and the original version. Since pirate versions are available for a lesser amount than the original version, people will tend to fall for pirated one’s causing huge losses to the owners of the original version.

Thus, as enlightened citizens of the country, we must stay away from these pirated versions and always use the original one’s and acknowledge the efforts of the individuals.

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