Website content copyright ownership
- AuthorChristopher Buck
Websites aren’t just words. As well as pages of content, there’s also intellectual property to think about. We’re talking about logos, images, slogans - the list goes on. They’re not always owned by the website owner, so when it comes to copyright and trade marks there’s a lot to consider…
Copyright is an automatic right that arises when a creator produces an original work, and writes it down, audibly records it or physically creates it. If you want to use this work, you need the consent of the creator, to prevent infringing the creator’s rights.
If a website is developed, the same principles largely apply. You need to get consent from the creator to reproduce their work on your website. However, not only do you need to establish the owner of the content, but also the owner of the website itself.
One common misunderstanding is if you pay someone, such as a contractor, to design or produce something for you - and this relates to other works as well as websites - because you’ve paid them, you own the rights.
This isn’t the case, however. The contractor will own the rights of the work as the creator, unless there’s an agreement in place saying otherwise. This type of agreement can be produced to transfer all rights from the contractor to the other party, which is commonly known as an assignment. Alternatively, the contractor could licence the work for your use by the other party.
If a website, or any work, is created by your employee, then unless there’s an agreement saying otherwise, any work created by the employee belongs to you, the employer.
It’s always best to have an agreement and understanding of what:
- you own
- you’ve had assigned to you
- you’ve assigned to others
- licences are in place, if any
Before you commission any work, it’s advisable to put an agreement in place, to deal with the ownership of copyright. This prevents disagreements and potential infringement further along the line.
As well as identifying and agreeing ownership of copyright, another way to make sure components of your website are protected is to trade mark them.
A trade mark is a non-descriptive way of distinguishing your brand - including goods and services - from another. This can stop competitors trading under a similar name, or even using a similar logo or slogan.
To establish a trade mark in the UK, you need to make an application to the Intellectual Property Office. The content and similarity of any suggested new trade mark will then be considered before being granted.
Whether you’d like advice about your website or other work, our experienced Intellectual Property department can help you with copyright and trade marks matters. They can help with establishing ownership, licences of copyright, creating a trade mark, or infringements of any of the above. Please give them a call on 01604 828 282 or send us a message via our online service.