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My website has been in development for a long time and cost a lot of money. How do I go about securing an enforceable copyright on my website design and what is the proper way to post a copyright notice on the site so others know the work is copyrighted?

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up vote 22 down vote accepted

The US is a member of the Berne Convention which means users have the Copyright for their work and even have it without notice on the work itself (although I would recommend using it). (For a full list of countries who this also applies to see the list of other members.

You automatically have the copyright to any work you create. There isn't an official register of copyright. You can apply for trademarks and patents if you have anything that qualifies.

Put a copyright notice at the bottom and have proof you created the work but enforcement is kind of hard anyway. Even sites which copy you down to the slightest detail can escape it. There are rip-offs, down to the pixel, of stack overflow but they are in China and it's too hard to enforce. Don't fret too much about it.

If your really worried I would seek professional legal advice on how to protect your intellectual property which may well involve measures beyond copyright.

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+1 Nice touch with the 'Berne Convention'. I knew the guidelines of how copyrights in the US worked but I didn't know the reference to the actual legal documentation for it. – Evan Plaice Jul 15 '10 at 9:53
There is an official copyright registry, the US Copyright Office. It's true that you have copyright on anything you create without registration, but registration gives additional legal benefits, as does marking copyright (also not required). – Charles Jun 29 '11 at 15:54

To register your website as legally copyrighted, assuming you are in the United States, you would visit the U.S. Copyright Office. From there, you could use their Electronic Copyright Office (eCO) to register your copyright. Their site also has a list of fees for performing this service.

Please note- you do not have to register your copyright to have your material copyrighted; it is legally copyrighted upon it's creation. Registering your copyright will add this as fact to the public record, and provides precedence in the event of theft of your work.

Once you have your site copyrighted, add a line somewhere in your site's design (usually found at the bottom of every page) which lists the year(s) in which the copyright was filed, and who the site is copyrighted to. Make sure you use the word "Copyright", or the copyright symbol (©, or © in HTML Entity form). "(C)" is not a legally recognized symbol for a copyright.

An example:

This comment is Copyright (©) Soleil Golden, 2010.

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The US is a member of the Berne Convention which means users have the Copyright for their work and even have it without notice on the work itself (although I would recommend using it). I am not sure what the US Copyright office does but it's not a international standard and it's not required. – Damien Jul 8 '10 at 19:58
the brackets in (©) aren't necessary. – delete Jul 9 '10 at 0:29
@Damien: In my understanding, registering with the U.S. Copyright Office provides documentation of the work being your creation and the copyright being under your ownership as of a certain date. It removes (or at least vastly reduces) the risk that you'll be unable to prove that you're the copyright holder, in case you're ever involved in a copyright lawsuit. – David Z Jul 17 '10 at 19:33
Rather crucially it also allows you to recover statutory damages on top of compensatory damages. No registration, no statutory damages. – Francis Davey Aug 5 '10 at 20:02
Warning! © is not a substitute for "Copyright" if you want those statutory damages. – Charles Jun 29 '11 at 15:55

It is copyrighted automatically, but it is still good practice to put the copyright notice © - © not (c) at the bottom of your page.

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You don't need to do anything. If your website is a work of creativity it is automatically copyrighted. However, your design might not be. The code (html/css) that entails your design is copyrighted automatically. However, the design itself might not be, since this would usually trademarked. This is in particular the case for Logos and similar. Trademarks need to be obtained by the Patent and Trademark Office and are limited to jurisdictions.

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you could check out Myows Copyright Management Solution.

Myows stands for "MY Original Works"

It’s an easy-to-use app dedicated to providing a full suite of copyright solutions, from registration to management.

Myows has been created for designers, photographers, bloggers, writers, musicians and anyone who creates copyrightable work.

All in one place, online, for free

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Why the downvotes? I don't see any evidence this is spam. – John Conde Jun 29 '11 at 16:02
Hi John, what do you mean? Did I downvote something, or did people downvote my answer. Anyway this was no spam, just an answer to the question. – Saif Bechan Jul 4 '11 at 8:17
You did receive a downvote and was wondering why. I assumed they considered it spam but I don't see why they would. Anyway, I upvoted to offset that downvote. – John Conde Jul 5 '11 at 1:55

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