Copyright Law for Webmasters

Protecting The Work

Copyright is the way that you go about legally protecting your expressions. Copyright is automatically evoked anytime the expression becomes fixed in a tangible medium. Some examples of tangible medium canbe described as paper, tape, CD, DVD, or, as it pertains to this website, websites. Copyright is applied to your work once it has become permanent, or stable for a reasonable amount of time. As stated previously, copyright is applied automatically, without having to attach a copyright symbol.

Copyright infringement occurs when someone displays an exact duplicate of the work or creates a close derivative without authorization of the copyright owner. There are however, some exceptions to this rule. Most of the exceptions have to do with what is called 'fair use'. Normally, fair use is determined on a case by case basis, often having to be resolved in court. But most often, judgment is awarded to the original copyright owner.

Copyright rights are lost when a work enters the public domain. Works enter the public domain through after the passing of a pre-determined amount of time. Laws vary from state to state, and country to country regarding how much time passes before a work enters the public domain, and there is at least some copyright protection on all works up until 50 years after the death of the original copyright owner.


A common misconception is that works must be labeled with a copyright notice before they are protect. That is usually not true. Works do not have to be labeled with the copyright symbol or otherwise to be protected under copyright law.

It is surprisingly easy to be in violation of copyright law on the internet. going strictly by the letter of the law, when you view and cache a webpage with an internet browser, it is taking a copy of that copyrighted content. Fortunately, placing content on the web in the first place comes implies that customers will view it using and internet browser, and therefore are given license to copy content in that way. However, if other copies are make of the protected work, then it would be a copyright violation.

Another common misconception is that viewing and copying the html source code of a website is not a violation of copyright law. However, this notion is false. The copying of any source code, no matter what programming language is unlawful.


Web developers and content writers both need to know and understand copyright law in order to keep from being in violation of it, as well as being able to protect their own works.