Friday, October 30, 2009

Proving a website copyright

As mentioned earlier, websites are copyrighted as soon as you create them, and you can register the copyright with the appropriate intellectual property office. However, if other people dispute your copyright, then you will want to have evidence to prove that you are the real creator of the disputed material.

This is where that "Copyright [Insert creator's name here] 2009" phrase printed on so many items, though legally unnecessary for material to be copyrighted, comes in handy. The reason it is on books, CDs, DVDs, etc., is so that when a first edition is published, the fact that so many people can testify they had a copy of it with the copyright holder's name and year of creation on it creates good evidence of that person's ownership of copyright.

On a website, however, the copyright phrase by itself is insufficient because it can be readily modified at any time. Both the copyright phrase and an archiving service should be used. To have a website archived for a free, a webmaster can submit their website to the "WayBackMachine" at will crawl the website within a few weeks, and add it to its archive. If there's ever a dispute over copyrighted content, a person might boost their case by showing that their website was archived as existing first.

If you are a copyright holder, keep in mind that you do not need to put your name on a website as the copyright holder if you do not want to give up your privacy. There are ways to still establish that the archived website belongs to you, such as getting a registered business name in your jurisdiction linked to your real name, and posting the registered business name as the copyright holder. If you are running a website with your own top-level domain name, use your real name but buy a WHOIS privacy feature, and if it should become necessary you can prove you owned the archived website in court by showing your domain registration documents.

RELATED LINKS (Open in new window)

Internet Archive: Wayback Machine

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