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I'm planning to create a new site that (in hopes) will make it to a decent state of popularity and use. I have made sites before, but they weren't serious, with any intended purpose other than personal and friend use.

I've never been able to find a solid post on good steps to protecting yourself, and your site/idea before you start. This site will always be free, and will not be bringing it any revenue by ads or whatnot, but I plan to in the future and would want to make I'm in the clear legally for one.

Do you need to copyright anything? Or anything of the same concept as copyright? Do I make an LLC to operate it under?

Apologies for this extremely poorly written question, basically I want to be both legal, and I want to make sure nobody can just rip my idea or name(s).

(I'm sure this will be more concise as questions here are asked)

Thanks

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2 Answers 2

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You have a lot of choices legally and I am not a lawyer so you should definitely find and contact one that specializes in small business or internet business. My opinion is that if you plan on having your site charge money at any point or providing a service to busineses, there is value in setting up an LLC because that way people and companies cannot sue you directly for any issues or mistakes that occur. The chances are small but for the several hundred dollars that an LLC costs it could save you a lot of headaches. And you can reuse the LLC in the future with other sites.

As for protecting your idea. There is really no way to fully protect your idea without trying to patent it. Again, I am not a lawyer so talk to one about this but my opinion is that Software patents tend to be either very specific (Amazon 1 click) or very broad (Paul Allen's company holdsmany of these). The narrow patents can have serious value if you find something no one else is doing that is simple but that is usually hard to find. The wider patents tend to be of no value unless you have the team of lawyers to back them up. Currently, it is even unknown if the wide area patents will stick (see Paul Allen legal articles for more). Regardless, patenting is an expensive and potentially drawn out process. Especially for small companies or individuals that probably don't have the money for lawyers who are familiar with the topic.

Finally, the best way to protect your idea is to not share it with any tech sources before you go live. You should also make sure your Copyright claim is clear on each page. This won't necessarily stop others from copying your idea or trying to do something similar but it will give you a jump on the market which can give you a chance at building market share before other can enter.

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Thanks both of you. So, if someone were to try and rip the name, what would you do in defense? Send a cease and desist? What if they completely copy the idea but are under a 100% different name, nothing you can do about it? –  John Redyns Mar 6 '11 at 21:38
    
If they copy the name, I would contact a lawyer and have them handle it. I would contact a lawyer when you create the site just to confirm what you rights are there before it happens. If someone copies the idea, again contact a lawyer but I am pretty sure that it would be very hard to fight them. Keep in mind most companies don't copy a competitor exactly. There is no value in it bc if they are exactly the same they are fighting an uphill battle from the start. They usually try to do something different and if so, there isn't much you can do. In the end, don't let competition worry you! –  RandomBen Mar 7 '11 at 14:06

I'm assuming that you're based in the United States. As soon as you create any original work, it is automatically copyrighted, as long as you can prove that it's your original creation.

See http://www.linkedin.com/answers/law-legal/corporate-law/intellectual-property/LAW_COR_IPP/706449-4535864 for a good discussion of this.

If you want additional protection, register your work with the Library of Congress at http://copyright.gov/

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