In the era of digital marketing, a website has become a vital tool for an e-commerce company. They act as a gateway to the consumers for the promotion of their business. However, the growth of digital marketing and web commerce is also coupled with the increase in risk that people may reproduce the exact ‘look and feel’ of your website, or some of the contents of your website. Immediately, a question must have struck your mind that what are the elements that are protected and what are the ways to protect it. These questions will be answered one by one in the subsequent paragraphs.
Which are the elements of your website that are protected or can be protected?
There are various parts of the website which may be copyright protected. Some of them are enumerated below:
E-commerce systems, technical internet tools or search engines can be patent protected or can be protected by utility models.
Software is also protected which also includes the HTML code used.
Logos of your business, name, domain names and other similar objects are also protected by the trademark laws.
Graphic symbols generated by computers, GUIs (graphic user interfaces), web pages and also webpages are also protected in the form of industrial designs.
Source code, algorithms, programmes and all other hidden aspects of your website can be protected as a part of your trade secret as long as it is not made to public and you have taken necessary steps for their protection.
How to protect your website?
When the cyber world is vulnerable to the hacking predators, it becomes an implied obligation on you to protect your asset through necessary precautions:
Legal Protection: Half of the legal battle is lost in the very moment when you sleep over your rights. So the most important strategy to protect your Intellectual Property (IP) is to protect them. SO in order to protect them, you should:
Register your trademark,
Register the domain name if possible,
Register the website and copyright materials,
Create a legal obligation to maintain secrecy for your employees or any other person having access to your confidential information.
Public knowledge of the fact that your content is protected: There is a common misconception among people that a lot of material available freely on websites can be used indiscriminately and freely. So, it is important to remind your viewers that your content is protected.
You can mark your trademarks through symbols like ® for registered and ©for copyright protected;
Using watermark for the digital content by embedding it in the document.
A timestamp can also be used. This is a tool which is attached to the digital content that demonstrates the state of the content at a given time.
Let people know that how can they make use of the content: You can have a copyright statement in every page of your website that clearly states your company’s terms on the use of the page. This is in order to educate the viewers about what they can do with the page.
Controlling the access and use of your website: Technological protection like encryption, conditional access system and online agreements can be used to control the ill-usage of your website’s data.
Who is the owner of your Website’s IP rights?
A website is a combination of components owned by various individuals. For instance, a website is a collage of someone’s photo who has copyright over that or navigation software or graphics and so on and so forth. It is not mandatory for one’s business to own every content on the website. However, it is important for you to know what you own or what rights do you have on the elements of your website.
Who becomes the owner if someone is paid to develop the website?
It is a common practice to get your website developed by some external professional. You pay for the website development and outsource the product from them. Here a question arises as to who owns the copyright in this case. The answer to this can be given in two folds. In the first case, when the website is developed by an employee for their employer and in the second case, when you outsource the website content from an external contractor.
In the first case, when the website is developed by your employee, you are the one who generally owns the copyright over the same unless otherwise agreed between you and your employee. However, it is somewhat different in the second case. You might be perplexed to know that you will not become the owner of the website even if you pay for the work you outsourced. They are independent contractors and are the owner of their own IP rights over the website they have created and the components in it. You own nothing on that website except an exclusive right to use the website. However, you can enter into an agreement with that independent contractor for transferring all his rights to you, but again these are done in very exceptional circumstances.
For instance, a freelance website creator designed your website and there is no transfer agreement between you and the developer. So here the copyright rests with the web designer. After some time you wish to modify your website and under the applicable laws, you are required to get authorisation from the concerned web designer.
In Media.net Advertising FZ-LLC v. Netseer Inc., the Californian District Court was faced with the question that whether HTML is copyrightable or not even if the look and feel is not. In this case, the plaintiff was an online contextual advertising service provider who brought a copyright infringement case against the defendant for allegedly copying the HTML to build his own custom created search results page. Court held that the HTML is copyrightable if it is created by a human and contains a sufficient amount of creativity. However, look and feel of the website cannot be copyright protected because there is a possibility that HTML can be coded in different ways to get similar look and feel of the website.
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