Copyright website content

Hello guys. I just signed up here. :slight_smile:

I want to know if I have to get my website content copyrighted before I have the web developer go on with the site. I am doing this for the safety of myself so I don’t have anyone stealing my content.

Also, how much would it cost to get my site copyrighted from a lawyer? I would prefer to have this documentation in my hand rather than an online copyright form but if it cost too much, what is the best way to get my site copyrighted online?

Thanks for your help.

Hi hellokitty08. Welcome to SitePoint. :slight_smile:

Your work is copyrighted by default, but there are some orgainisations through which you can formally register your content as copyrighted, in case you have to prove it. Trying to find those links now, as I haven’t looked at them for a while.

I am located in the USA. Yes they do get copyrighted by default but I want it in writing also. How do I get the copyright ‘c’ logo on my website? Is that something the copyright sites give you or can the web developer put that in?

Thanks again. :slight_smile:

Ha ha, you just put it there. :slight_smile: There’s no need for it, but most websites have that in there anyhow.

Registering your content somewhere just gives you a backup if you need to prove that the content is yours, but I’ve never met anyone who uses those services, so have long forgotten about them.

Ok, but since my website generates revenue, wouldn’t it be safe that I do get the website content copyrighted on paper?

Sure, if you want. I was just making the point that you don’t need to do anything special to put a © on your site. Anyone can do it, as it’s just stating the obvious. I’m not sure how many people formally register their content, but if it gives you peace of mind, then do it. It doesn’t mean people won’t copy your materials, and I’m not sure how you’d go trying to take legal action against them if they did—especially across borders—but you’d have to investigate that further.

Also review your contract with your web designer and ensure you have a work for hire contract where you retain ownership of the copyright to the material, not your designer.

Copyright Overview & The DMCA Safe Harbor

A copyright is the exclusive property right granted to the author or creator of original works. Despite what some people think – if it is posted on the Internet it already belongs to somebody. This outline will provide an overview of the Copyright laws and provide you with an understanding of the ownership rights involved.

Included in this outline is information about the safe harbor immunity for Web Site operators created by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA.) The Safe Harbor provisions are especially valuable to web sites providing blogging, social networking, etc. The DMCA with its Safe Harbor was signed into law in 1996 and many authors have said this legislation is responsible for the Internet’s phenomenal growth over the past decade.


A copyright is the exclusive property right granted to the author or creator of original works including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works.


Copyright is Secured Automatically upon Creation

The way in which copyright protection is secured is frequently misunderstood. No publication or registration or other action in the Copyright Office is required to secure copyright. There are, however, certain definite advantages to registration.

Copyright is secured automatically when the work is created, and a work is “created” when it is fixed in a copy for the first time. “Copies” are material objects from which a work can be read or visually perceived either directly or with the aid of a machine or device, such as books, manuscripts, sheet music, film, videotape, or microfilm.


Copyright protects “original works of authorship” that are fixed in a tangible form of expression. The fixation need not be directly perceptible so long as it may be communicated with the aid of a machine or device. Copyrightable works include the following categories: literary works, musical works, including any accompanying words, dramatic works, including any accompanying music, pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works, motion pictures and other audiovisual works, sound recordings, architectural works. These categories should be viewed broadly. For example, computer programs and most “compilations” may be registered as “literary works”; maps and architectural plans may be registered as “pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works.”


Several categories of material are generally not eligible for federal copyright protection. These include among others:

  1. Works that have not been fixed in a tangible form of expression (for example, choreographic works that have not been notated or recorded, or improvisational speeches or performances that have not been written or recorded.)
  2. Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar symbols or designs; mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring; mere listings of ingredients or contents.
  3. Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices, as distinguished from a description, explanation, or illustration.
  4. Works consisting entirely of information that is common property and containing no original authorship (for example: standard calendars, height and weight charts, tape measures and rulers, and lists or tables taken from public documents or other common sources).


The use of a copyright notice is no longer required under U. S. law, although it is often beneficial. Use of the notice may be important because it informs the public that the work is protected by copyright, identifies the copyright owner, and shows the year of first publication. Furthermore, in the event that a work is infringed, if a proper notice of copyright appears on the published copy to which a defendant in a copyright infringement suit had access, then no weight shall be given to such a defendant’s interposition of a defense based on innocent infringement. Innocent infringement occurs when the infringer did not realize that the work was protected.

The use of the copyright notice is the responsibility of the copyright owner and does not require advance permission from, or registration with, the Copyright Office. The notice should contain all three of the following elements:

  1. The symbol © (the letter C in a circle), or the word “Copyright,”
  2. The year of first publication of the work.
  3. The name of the owner of copyright in the work. Example: © 2008 John Doe


A copyright owner’s exclusive rights may be transferred, but the transfer of exclusive rights is not valid unless that transfer is in writing and signed by the owner of the rights. Transfer of a right on a nonexclusive basis does not require a written agreement.


In general, copyright registration is a legal formality intended to make a public record of the basic facts of a particular copyright. However, registration is not a condition of copyright protection. Registration may be made at any time within the life of the copyright.

Even though registration is not a requirement for protection, the copyright law provides several inducements and advantages to encourage copyright owners to make registration. Among these advantages are the following:

  1. Registration establishes a public record of the copyright claim.
  2. Before an infringement suit may be filed in court, registration is necessary for works of U.S. origin.
  3. If made before or within five years of publication, registration will establish prima facie evidence in court of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate.
  4. If registration is made within three months after publication of the work or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorney’s fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions. Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is available to the copyright owner.
  5. Registration allows the owner of the copyright to record the registration with the U.S. Customs Service for protection against the importation of infringing copies.


Filing an Original Claim to Copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office

An application for copyright registration contains a completed application form, a nonrefundable filing fee, and a non-returnable deposit copy of the work being registered and “deposited” with the Copyright Office.

A copyright registration is effective on the date the Copyright Office receives all required elements in acceptable form, regardless of how long it takes to process the application and mail the certificate of registration.


Online registration through the electronic Copyright Office (eCO) is the preferred way to register basic claims. Advantages of online filing include a lower filing fee, faster processing time, online status tracking, secure payment by credit and the ability to upload certain categories of deposits directly into eCO as electronic files.

The DMCA Safe Harbor

DMCA Title II, the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act (“OCILLA”), creates a safe harbor for online service providers (OSPs, including ISPs) against copyright liability if they adhere to and qualify for certain prescribed safe harbor guidelines and promptly block access to allegedly infringing material (or remove such material from their systems) if they receive a notification claiming infringement from a copyright holder.

The Safe Harbor provisions are especially valuable to web sites providing blogging, social networking, etc. The DMCA with its Safe Harbor was signed into law in 1996 and many authors have said this legislation is responsible for the Internets phenomenal growth over the past decade.

As a website operator the Safe Harbor means you are not responsible for the copyright infringement of others on your site as long as you do not have actual knowledge that the material is infringing, that you are not receiving a financial benefit directly attributable to the infringing activity and that you adhere to the takedown provisions of the act. The safe harbor applies to links posted by others as well as the content they post.

The DMCA safe harbor is not automatic and requires a web site operator to have the DMCA proceedures in writing on the site, as well as having a registered DMCA agent with the U.S. Copyright Office.