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?
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. The United States Copyright Office is the 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.
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.
This comment is Copyright (©) Soleil Golden, 2010.
I'm a Copyright Attorney.
The above answers are, unfortunately (and understandably), misinformed.
"Copyrighted" "copyright" "copyrightable" and "Registered Copyright" are different words with very different meanings and different legal consequences.
"Copyrighted" and "copyright" are 'slang'-- they have no precise legal meaning ... usually, when these words are used the person using one of them means either "Registered Copyright" or "Copyrightable."
An original webpage is COPYRIGHTABLE ... meaning that it MAY be protected under copyright law.
However, to enforce the rights ("rights in copy") one has to file a DMCA Notice or sue in federal court. A DMCA notice merely starts a process; if the infringer/thief responds properly, the notice has no enforceable effect (absent a lawsuit).
To have enforceable power, one must have a Registered Copyright -- this requires a registration with the US Copyright Office.
Every few months you wait to register your rights (your "copyright") you LOSE rights! After a few years you've retained only the right to sue, but at that point you have all of the burdens of proof and your damages are limited (you won't be able to find a contingency lawyer).
Contact a lawyer, and register Your Website with the Copyright Office within two months of publication. Legally, it's the only smart thing to do.
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.
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