Copyright on the internet?

Copyright on the internet, well, rather the lack of it!

This is all to do with general copyright of information on the internet, albeit images or text on a web page, the webpage as a whole or any information on the internet.

So, I wish first to clarify what copyright on the internet means.


If you publish information onto the net then it is entirely in the public domain for all to see, download and copy. This applies mainly to webpages, images and any programs or music you choose to place there. This is done entirely at your own risk. Remember that anyone can view a web page and download the information placed therein where ever in the world.

So, if you place information, don´t be surprised if you find it elsewhere.

There is however something called “Intellectual property”. This means that because it was created by you, it is your property. This still won´t stop people copying it. A bit like Software or Music!

It will however help you if you should ever wish to pursue the copier of your material in a court of law. However pursuing somebody is usually impossible due to the nature of the internet and the laws of copyright which are different all over the world.

So, what can you do if somebody has copied your work and is passing it off as their own?

Firstly ask the person who is passing your work off as there own to remove the information from their web site, politely.

If this is ineffective then you should try the ISP they are using. This however can be as hard a task as trying to get the material removed. The usual ways are to try looking up the Domain Name for the site with somebody such as This information should tell you who the domain is registered to and will usually tell you who registered it (Which ISP or domain registry).

You are asking the ISP as they are breaking copyright laws by hosting the material, but you must be able to provide proof that this copyright is being broken. If you can and they agree they will usually do this without the permission of the offender as they do not wish to be sued.

If you fail on both these counts then consult the World Intellectual Property Organization they can usually help.

So how can I stop my stuff being stolen and if it is how can I prove the information is mine.

Let´s cover web pages and images first.

First, put copyright text on all pages/images that require copyright, don´t go mad though this will spoil the look of the site. A “© Copyright Fred Bloggs 2001” will usually do (that´s unless your not called, Fred Bloggs) . If you are placing images that you may wish others to buy then a copyright across the middle will be the best thing. See my photography section or the Corbis site for what I mean.

Alternatively, place a disclaimer on the site, with detailed copyright information “The images and text contained…. “ That sort of thing. An example is my Terms & Conditions page. A line such as below should suffice as legally binding.

“Please read the Terms and Conditions carefully as use of this site constitutes acceptance thereof.”

Once the site is finished, (this being the design and pages themselves) put them onto CD (CD is better than floppy as it can´t be magnetically erased), with any other information, such as the Word documents or the Photoshop files used to create the web pages. Make sure this is a closed session (no more date can be written to the CD) and make sure it is dated.

Music and Programs fall into this category as well.

This CD then should be placed in a Jiffy bag and posted to yourself, or somebody you trust, posted Special Delivery Only. Ask the post office clerk to put the sticker over the tab on the envelope. This is Date and Time stamped. On receipt of this place the envelope some where it will be safe. (DO NOT OPEN IT) I place all mine in a safety deposit box at my bank. I will explain why in a moment.

If you are putting any other type of information on the internet, such as a message on a newsgroup, forum or web board such as Dooyoo. Kiss any copyright you have goodbye as this will be impossible to prove at a later date.

So why have I put my web site into a bag and then stored it? I hear you ask!

Well, if any such problem does arrive and you wish to pursue this matter in a court of law then all you need to do is produce this little bag on the date of the court appearance. Anyone claiming copyright of your information will not have a leg to stand on.

How do I know all this? Well I have done quite a lot of web sites in the past 7 years, nearly 120, and until somebody tried to steal a web site we had done and pass it off as their own and then try to not pay us you take these things for granted (it was on a private test site so they could only look at it, with a username and password, and they downloaded everything and then put it on there own web server).

Note: if your customers have access to a staging area where all your customers work in progress are shown, then keep a copy of your server logs as they can be used in evidence should things turn sour. Remember a computers IP address, pages looked at and other information are logged when you view a web page. Even this one!

Thanks to a very good solicitor, we recovered the site and sued the company who stole our property. Remember this line “The entitlement of the goods remains the sole property of the vender until payment is made in full” It is the same with a web site believe it or not.

If you are doing serious work on the web and want to protect your investment in time and effort this is the easiest and cheapest way of securing your investment.

However, if you are doing homepages on the web then there maybe no point unless you have some ground breaking revolutionary information you wish to tell the world about. In my experience, keep it to yourself as somebody will try to steal or take advantage of the information.

If you don´t think that I am serious about things like this then take a look at the large image libraries who stick large watermarks on all their images which you would find hard to remove. The only clear versions you will get is the ones you pay for.

In my opinion there is no copyright on the internet as all information is accessable to all. Take my advice before you end up trying to find somebody who has stolen your material.

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