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Copyrighting For Web Projects

08th February 2011
By Richard Chapo in Internet Law
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The world of intellectual property known as copyright and the world wide web have always been two areas that didnít mesh well. The first brawl was, of course, in the posting and downloading of music online, and that has just spread to other areas. Given this, most sites automatically shun copyrighting as the tool of the enemy and this is a huge mistake.

A copyright simply refers to the right of ownership for something created by a person or persons that is loosely referred to as a work. Classic examples include books, songs, and unique web designs. The owner of the work is the person that created it unless they worked for a company that assigned them the task or transferred said ownership to a third party.

Copyrighting your creations online makes absolute sense. Why? Well, letís consider the impact copyrighting has. If done within 3 months of the publication of the work, in this case the publishing of the site on the web, the copyright is presumed to be valid. This means a defendant who has stolen your design, graphics or whatever must prove that the copyright is invalid, a very hard thing to do. On top of this, you are also given the ability to collect your attorney fees from the infringing party as well as get damages up to $70,000 or more per infraction. This is all very significant.


Can you copyright a web design or elements of it and then just forget about it? No. Every update that materially affects the work must also be copyrighted. Yes, you read that correctly and, yes, that is fairly impractical. Sites are updated constantly these days, so nailing down every update is going to be costly in time and money.

As a lawyer, I of course want to see you do it every time. As a site owner, I realize that probably isnít going to happen. Given this, most sites simply try to copyright their big updates or static parts of the site. The answer varies by each site, so make sure to speak with your copyright counsel on the subject.

Richard A. Chapo is with SanDiegoBusinessLawFirm.com - creating and negotiating copyright transfer contract agreements for clients.
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