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Having an e-commerce business in the current digital world means that anyone can copy your content and use it for their website. From stealing images to copying website designs and ideas, it can be hard to protect your creative work when it is online and accessible to all. Even if you have the necessary protections in place, such as a copyright notice and trade marks, this may not stop other people from copying your work. If someone has copied your website or part thereof, there are several ways you can protect your site and enforce your intellectual property rights. This article explains.

What IP Protection Does My Website Have?

Copyright

Creative and original works automatically attract copyright protection in Australia. You do not need to register your work formally to receive protection under copyright law. Copyright cannot protect your entire website. However, it can protect certain components. Copyright law protects any images, videos, artworks or literary content that you create and upload onto your website. 

It is a good idea to display a copyright symbol or notice on your website.

For example, Copyright 2016 LegalVision Pty. Ltd.

A copyright notice illustrates to your website users that copyright law applies to your work.

Trade Marks

A trade mark will protect your brand name and logo on your website. Unlike copyright protection, there is a formal registration process to apply for a trade mark in Australia. A registered trade mark grants you legal protection, meaning that you can stop copycats from:

  • trading under the same name; or 
  • using your logo. 

You can also trade mark a unique course or program name or unique terminology that you have developed. Protecting these unique terms or phrases grants you further protection.

You may also consider filing for international trade marks to protect your branding in any other regions where you have a large market or presence. 

How Can I Enforce My Rights?

If you discover that someone has copied your website, you may wish to start by contacting the website owner yourself, stating that they have copied your content without your explicit permission. In this communication, you should provide: 

  • instructions on removing the content; 
  • details of where the content is located; and 
  • proof that you published the original content.

Sometimes, this is all that is required to solve the problem. However, if the website owner does not comply with your request, you may need to seek legal help. 

Letter of Demand

Depending on the nature of the copied work, a lawyer may be able to draft a legal letter demanding that the infringer stop using your original content. If the infringer has been using your content or artistic works for an extended period and made a profit off your work, you can also consider requesting that they pay you for the profit they have made. A letter of demand is usually the first legal step you can take, as it allows the infringer to adhere to your demands.

Court Injunctions

If the infringer does not adhere to your letter of demand, you may need to escalate matters to the court. Your lawyer can seek a court order called an injunction. An injunction from the court can either: 

  • compel the infringer to do something; or 
  • restrain the infringer from doing something. 

For example, the court may request that the infringer stop using your content. Additionally, the court may compel the infringer to pay you any profits they have made since they started using your content. 

Escalating litigation proceedings can be quite costly. You should speak to a lawyer before you pursue litigation. An experienced lawyer can advise you on your likelihood of success and anticipated court costs before you pursue litigation.

Website Terms of Use

As a website owner, you should have three primary documents on your website; namely, a:

The Website Terms of Use (WTU) is an essential legal document that details how all users engage on your website. A WTU also provides clear guidelines on how your content can be:

  • accessed,
  • used or modified, and 
  • shared or repurposed.

What if Someone Is Using My Website Name?

As well as copying your website content, the infringer may also be using the same website or business name. This infringement could cause website visitors to believe that the site is affiliated with yours or the website represents your business in some way. 

As we mentioned earlier, a registered trade mark will grant you legal protection, especially if your website name is your business name. 

For example, the LegalVision website contains the LegalVision name and logo clearly on our website. Our website URL also contains our business name. By having registered trade marks for these brand elements, you can send the infringing party a letter of demand detailing that they are infringing on your trade marks. 

A letter of demand will make known to the infringer that they are misusing your business name and must immediately stop using your intellectual property. If the infringer has earned profit by using your business name, there are many remedies available. 

For example, you may be entitled to an account of profits and damages.

Key Takeaways

If you believe someone has copied your website, whether it be your images, videos, or art, you should reach out to a lawyer to discuss your options to stop the infringer. It is important to remember to take preventive measures to stop potential infringers. If you identify someone copying your website, you should gather as much evidence of the alleged infringement. Screenshots of the offending website can help establish your case and copyright claim. If you have any questions, please contact LegalVision’s IP lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What legal documents does my website need?

The three primary documents your website needs are a Privacy Policy, Website Terms of Use and Terms and Conditions

Is my website protected by copyright?

Copyright does not protect your entire website. However, it can protect photographs, videos, artworks or creative writing on your website.

Can I trade mark a website?

You cannot trade mark an entire website. However, you can trade mark key elements, such as your brand name or logo.

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