An big concern for many website owners is that their content may be replicated by anonymous visitors. Nowadays, using content from another website has become increasingly easy with the ability to take screenshots on computers and mobile devices and publicly share them.

In order to figure out how to respond if a person has taken content from your website, you should endeavour to speak with an IP solicitor in considering a range of factors. These factors include:

What content has been taken?

Websites consist of various components. To figure out what you can do about content that has been taken from your website, you should identify exactly what has been taken.

For example, is it your brand name or logo from the website that has been taken? Is it an image that a visitor to your site has posted? Is it content that you have borrowed from a third party and have placed on your website?

If content that you do not have rights to appears on your website and someone takes it, you may not be able to make a claim against the person taking this content.

As website content forms a part of your intellectual property, is any of the intellectual property registered?

Intellectual property rights are legally recognised and enforceable rights at law. This means that if your logo, for example, is a registered trademark and somebody copies it and uses it to represent their business, you may be able to enforce your intellectual property rights against them.

Some intellectual property may not even need to be registered in order for you to have rights to them. For example, copyright does not require registration under Australian law. So, if someone takes content from your website that you have clearly marked as your copyright, you would have the option of resolving this unauthorised use of website content and enforcing your rights as the owner of the content.

This is quite a tricky area of law and it is best to speak with an IT solicitor in order to get an understanding of your legal options.

Do you have website Terms of Use in place?

A simple way to communicate to users of your website that they cannot take content from you is to upload a set of website Terms of Use to your website. Website Terms of Use provide clear guidelines to everyone with access to your website, not just people who make purchases from you.

Website Terms of Use can cover:

  • the provision of a licence for visitors to make use of your site for a non-commercial use;
  • what constitutes prohibited conduct, such as copying content from the website or posting user reviews that are defamatory or inappropriate;
  • what intellectual property rights you have in the website;
  • how third party information on your website is treated;
  • what you are responsible for on your website and what you are not responsible for; And
  • what you will do if a user breaches these terms.

IT solicitors will have experience in drafting such legal documents in a format that can be uploaded onto your website.

Conclusion

In considering the legal issues for protecting your rights to the content of your website, it is a good idea to speak with an IT solicitor who may discuss with you the possible next steps in rectifying this situation.

Lachlan McKnight

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