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Copyright / Why You Should Always Take the Necessary Steps to Copyright the Content of Your Website

As a small business owner you know full well that having an impressive website is vital for the success of your business. You elected to invest significant time and money to build the site or to employ a reputable web designer to separate your website from your competitors. You may have also chosen to hire a search engine optimization firm in hopes of obtaining a first page search engine ranking on Google or elsewhere in order to increase new customer income generated from internet acquisition. Now, how can you protect yourself from competitors exploiting all your time, effort, and monies spent, by simply copying your web content and using it as their own on their website? Answer: copyright your website content (including pictures) with the United States Copyright Office ("USCO"). This article briefly outlines the process of registering your website and the steps that you can take to prevent others from infringing your intellectual property rights.

Copyrights protect your company's creative work, including websites, from unauthorized use. Basically, a copyright consists of certain intangible rights granted by federal statute to the author or creator of certain creative woks (literary or artistic), whereby, for a certain period, the exclusive privilege is given to the author or creator (or to any party to whom ownership is transferred) to use, display, and make copies of the same for publication and sale. Registering a copyright with the USCO can protect your website content (including pictures), advertisements, and other works.

Copyright protection begins the moment a work is created. However, your ability to enforce your rights by filing an infringement complaint is dependent on you seeking registration with the USCO. You may seek protection yourself but it is often worthwhile to consult an attorney who specializes in copyright law.

Prior to launching your website, it is wise to include a notice of copyright in plain view at the bottom of your website. By doing so, this puts the viewer on notice that your website content is subject to copyright protection. Your notice should use the word "copyright" or the symbol "©", along with the year of first publication and the name of the author or creator.

Your website does not have to be registered with the USCO to place notice on your website. However, as mentioned above, a copyright filing is required to file a complaint against an infringer.

As mentioned earlier, registering your copyright provides your company with several legal advantages in the event you learn that another party is infringing your copyright. First, a certificate of copyright registration raises a presumption of copyright validity and ownership in the event of infringement.

Second, in the event of litigation, a registered owner of a copyright may be eligible to a greater award of damages (including statutory damages and attorney's fees) against the infringing party.

Consulting an attorney who specializes in intellectual property can assist you in identifying what portions of your website can be protected by a copyright. Moreover, when faced with an event of infringement, your intellectual property attorney can assist your company in pursuing the appropriate legal remedies and injunctive relief if necessary.

On last consideration you need to take into account is what happens when you update or revise your registered website. In short, all original content from the original copyrighted website remains protected in the new website. However, every new addition in content is not awarded copyright protection unless you specifically register those additions with the USCO. Thus, while every minor change may not warrant a new copyright application, major overhauls probably warrant a new filing. An experienced intellectual property attorney can help you assess when to file additional applications.

For more information on how to copyright the content of your website, or to discuss possible copyright infringement, contact the Orange County IP law firm at MYERS BERSTEIN today.

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