Dave, I’ve created several web sites and I’m worried about other sites stealing my content. How can I copyright my sites and will doing that actually help me?
This is a very timely question as I’ve really been digging into copyright issues as some of my content seems to be traveling further in the electronic world than I would like. I’ve written about various facets of the topic, including about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and Are copyrights necessary for Web sites?
My long-time friend and colleague Kevin Savetz, however, just published a very informative ebook entitled Copyright Your Web Site: How to Protect Your Online Work and here’s how he answers your question:
Registering the copyright of your web site won’t stop everyone from stealing your content, but it will deter many would-be thieves — particularly, ones in the U.S. Technically, your site is copyrighted it as soon as you save it, but registering the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office gives you legal protections that you don’t get otherwise, including the ability to sue plagiarists for statutory damages and attorney’s fees. If you don’t register the copyright, you can only sue for actual losses.
But it doesn’t need to come to that: you can send a letter to the plagiarist’s web host demanding that they remove the copied material under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. If they’re in the U.S., chances are the company will do so, and quickly — problem solved. (Getting the material taken down or suing may not be as easy if the infringer’s site is located outside the U.S.)
To register a copyright, you need to fill out the appropriate registration form (usually Form TX for a web site), and submit a “deposit” (a copy of the site on paper or electronic media) along with a $30 registration fee.
When you make changes to your site after registering, those changes aren’t covered under your earlier registration, so it’s a good idea to register any new material every three months. You probably don’t need to worry about this if you’ve simply corrected a few typos, but if you’ve added significant new content, it’s important to register the new material.
The process of registering isn’t terribly complicated, but there are plenty of potential “gotchas” in the registration form and deposit requirements, which is why I wrote the e-book.
Thanks for your information, Kevin, and for those of you reading this who are concerned about copyright and theft of your information – which should especially be of concern to online merchants – please do check out Kevin’s new ebook. I’ve read through it and it’s not only clear and accurate, but quite readable too, as you’d expect from a professional writer of Kevin’s stature. Here’s a link (and yes, this’ll help keep the lights on at the Ask Dave Taylor offices too, via a small commission payment): Copyright Your Web Site.