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<What It Means to Copyright a Website ⁄ >




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Original work is copyrighted from the moment of creation, provided it's fixed in tangible form. What does "fixed in tangible form" mean? This means that the work has to be documented or communicated in an observable way, either directly or through a machine or device. Some examples of fixed in tangible form include written on paper, saved on a hard drive, or captured on a recording device. Ideas, systems and methods cannot be copyrighted.

A website - graphics, content, visual elements - is copyrighted at the time of development. So putting the copyright notice on the bottom of a site states that the material displayed is not to be used without permission of the owner. In fact, you don't even need the notice to claim copyright; the law eliminated the requirement of public notice in 1989.

To take this one step further, copyright registration is an option when protecting online works. Registering a copyright provides a public record of ownership, plus registration is necessary before filing an infringement suit in court, should you ever need to do so. You can register online or by mail, by providing an application, a non-refundable fee (which is currently $35 for online registration), and a non-returnable deposit. The deposit is the entire work to be copyrighted (i.e. the website), which can be uploaded or sent in via CD.

This is important to note: the registered copyright only extends to the works included in the deposit. If you update the website after filing the copyright, you will need to register again for the new material. There are two cases (databases and serials/newsletters) where, if you meet the requirements, you can register in three-month chunks, with the copyright covering three months at a time. See Circular 62b for more information serials and newsletters, and Circular 65 for more information on databases. Please note: At the time of writing this, Circular 65 was being revised and was unavailable.



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