How much of my website is protected by copyright law?
Your website includes many pieces that all work together, including the coding, design, and written content on each page. Copyrights cover any artistic work, which means that most aspects of your website are automatically copyrighted as soon as they are produced.
While copyright protection does not apply to "facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation," it may extend to how those ideas are expressed. Computer programs, for example, are considered "literary works" and can be copyrighted.
Copyrights are not available for:
- Familiar symbols or designs
- Variations of lettering or color
- Listing of ingredients or contents
Slogans, business names, and business logos can be protected under Trademark laws. Registering a trademark for your business name and logo is one of the most important investments you can make to ensure no other business can easily profit off of the hard work that went into building your brand. The Rocket Lawyer Trademark Registration team can help answer your questions, conduct a Trademark search for you, and file your registration application at an affordable price.
Keep in mind that just because pieces of your website are copyrighted automatically, that does not mean that they are registered. Registration is a separate, voluntary process. You have to register your copyright to get additional legal protection if someone copies your site.
Should I register the copyright for my website?
Registering your copyright gets you some additional legal protections that would not otherwise be available if someone tries to steal any part of your website and pass it off as their own. Registering your work provides a certificate of registration to prove that your business website is yours and that you created it. Copyright registration is a public record, so others will see that you own the content on the site as well.
If your copyright is not registered, then you will not be able to start a lawsuit for copyright infringement. Those lawsuits can result in money damages that are set out by federal laws, and you may be able to force the offending party to pay for your attorney fees too.
How do I register the copyright for my website?
Registration requires filing an application with the U.S. Copyright Office. You have the option to fill out a paper copy of the registration form, or you can complete the registration online using the electronic Copyright Office Registration Portal (eCO).
There are several types of forms, including:
- Single Serials
- Performing Arts
- Sound Recordings
For business websites, you may need both literary and visual registration forms to register your entire website.
Registration also requires that you pay a fee. Registration may cost between $45-$125, depending on what you are submitting for registration. Keep in mind that these fees are separate from any price you may be required to pay for help drafting these applications, such as from an attorney. Go to the Copyright Office Fees page for the most current information about fees.
What is a Work for Hire Agreement, and what does it have to do with copyright protections?
A Work for Hire Agreement is a contract that you have another person or entity sign when you are hiring them to do work for you in any fashion that does not include an employee-employer relationship. Freelancers and contractors will often use Work for Hire Agreements to spell out the relationship between the parties, including the scope of work, rate of pay, and other vital aspects of the work that will be performed.
Work for Hire Agreements should also include a provision about copyrights. When you hire someone else to write content for your website, for example, they hold the copyright on that work because they created it. You need to transfer the copyright from them to you. You can do that in a Work for Hire Agreement that states that any work they perform for you will automatically transfer ownership rights to you upon completion.
How does my business enforce its copyright protections?
If someone infringes on your copyright, you have the legal right to file a lawsuit to stop the use. You may also be able to get money damages for their use of your copyright and any attorney fees you spent to start the lawsuit.
Generally, the first step in this process is to reach out to the person or entity that has stolen your copyrighted material and ask them to stop using it. This request is generally referred to as a "cease and desist" letter. This letter will spell out your rights and demand that the other person stop using your copyrighted material. In some cases, you might be able to demand payment for continued use of your material as well.
If the other person does not respond to your letter and use continues, you can request a court order to stop the use of your copyrighted material.
Learn more about this process and how other forms of intellectual property protection can benefit your business by consulting with a Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorney for fast and affordable legal advice.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.