Protecting your website design as a small business owner

Protecting your website design as a small business owner

As the importance of the internet grows, many businesses and individuals are increasingly seeking to create an online presence via a website. Furthermore, it’s also understandable that you’d want to create a website that is attractive, and if it’s a design that is unique and original, it may unfortunately be prone to be copied. Therefore, the question that should be asked is: Are website designs protected by copyright?

First, elements such as the images, multimedia files (e.g. MP3 files and video attachments) and the text used in a website can be protected. However, unless you developed the website yourself, it may be the developer who ultimately holds the copyright for the design.

How can I copyright a website design if the site was developed by someone else?

If you do want to copyright the design of your website, but didn’t actually do the developing, you can seek to assert such rights from the developer. The developer can assign or licence the copyright to the design, or alternatively, give you permission to tweak the website in accordance with your wishes.

Like many other contractual relationships, it’s a good idea that all the important terms relating to copyright assignment or licensing are understood, and whether any modifications are allowed. Basically, all material issues that should be addressed prior to signing an agreement with a third party developer should be fleshed out before entering into an agreement.

How can I protect the copyright of any materials that appear on my website?

If you wish to protect your intellectual property on your website, whether it’s to do with the multimedia elements, text, or the overall design, the inclusion of notices outlining who owns the copyrighted material, how the protected materials are to be used or a prohibition on its use, and contact details of the copyright holders for assignment or licensing should be clearly outlined on the site.

What about the use of links on my website?

One of the actions that website owners must undertake if they wish for their site to be found by search engines such as Google and Bing is the linking to other pages on the internet to ensure your site receives the benefit of search engine optimisation (SEO). Potential issues may arise in relation to misleading or deceptive conduct if your links point to another site where a business arrangement may have been made without identifying any potential conflicts that may need to be publicised. However, generally speaking, providing links to other authoritative sites is usually good SEO practice and fine.

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