QUESTION: Does putting “Copyright 2023” at the bottom of pages on my crafts website protect it from site visitors who download an image or text?
ANSWER: Placing a copyright notice on your website is like sticking a “Keep off the grass” sign on your front lawn. People who respect your property rights will stay off, and those who don’t respect the rules … you’ll just have to chase them away for trespassing. The copyright notice doesn’t add any new weapons to your copyright arsenal (although it used to be very important). And unless you’re willing to follow up a theft with a threatening letter (or better yet, have your attorney do it), it’s unlikely your copyright notice will have much effect on a bad actor bent on copying.
Rephrase the question. Can we suggest you rephrase your question to “What can I do about visitors who download images and content from my website without my permission?” There are technical methods of preventing copying of your text, but these involve website coding, and most coders consider them pointless. The legal route – tracking down infringers and dragging them into court for financial punishment — is the most effective. Because copyright is not enforced by the government, you have to hunt down infringers and seek justice yourself and that’s why protecting your website can be expensive. Sometimes, you will be repaid your attorney’s fees, but winning your case doesn’t guarantee a return on attorney fees.
Fortify your defenses. If you foresee the possibility that you’ll nab someone copying your website, the following steps will increase your chances of success and remuneration for your troubles.
- Make sure you own or have permission to use all of your website content.
- Include an end-user license, which the user has to click to accept. If you offer downloads, link the downloads to acceptance of the license.
- Include copyright notice on each of your web pages (It may help prove that the infringer was aware you claimed copyright).
- Include a method for people to contact you in the event someone wants to license content.
- Gather evidence of copying. Prepare side-by-side tables showing your site and the copied site.
- Register your website. If you have a registration in place three months before an infringement a judge has more freedom in awarding statutory damages – a range of punishments instead of just compensating you for out of pocket damages — and attorney fees.
- If you can afford it have an attorney write a cease and desist letter.
- If you can afford it have an attorney file a copyright suit, or if you are a go-getter with a DIY mentality consider filing a case in the nation’s new Copyright Small Claims court.
- Review the facts before you make threats. Some who copy may have fair use defenses.
- Pick your fights carefully. Go after those (1) who are inflicting the most damage competitively; or (2) high profile copying that you can’t ignore.