Copyrighting websites? Does it matter?

braveduck's picture

Quick question. Does copyrighting a website really protect your design? Are there any cases out there where someone really ripped off the design and layout of a site and was successfully taken to court?

Anyone, Anyone?

Thanks in advance.


aluminum's picture

Your site *is* copyrighted the instant you poste it.

Copyright has little to do with actual protection. That's what the lawyers are for.

quijibo's picture

my understanding is that the actual copyright information should be there in case the lawyers are ever called in.

kakaze's picture

Poor mans copyright:

When you are finished with something, burn it to a CD and mail it to yourself. Don't open it unless it's needed for litigation.

joevdb's picture

Yes, a work is coprighted at the moment of it's creation. but maximum protection is only extended to registered copyrights. In the U.S. you register with the US copyright office at: . $30 would cover the cost of a registration of a single image of suite of images. My knowledge of copyright law is a result of my volunteer time spent with the Graphic Artists Guild. While I've never registered a website, I have registered many images. The process is similar.

Mailing a copy to yourself, or "schoolyard copyright" proves nothing in a court of law, except that you mailed it to yourself. It's worthless as far as protecting your interests. This wives tale will still be around long after the postal service has gone out of business.

Here's why registration is worthwhile:

In the event of an infringement, an unregistered copyright creator would probably search for a lawyer to take his/her case. In court, the holder would then need to prove the damages the infringer inflicted, and would be eligible for actual damages. Not many lawyers would take that case, because the return would be so small..., and more difficult to bring to court. In the end, this person would likely just mail a cease and desist letter without any teeth to back it up and hope the infringer does the right thing.

In the event the

Hildebrant's picture

> When you are finished with something, burn it to a CD and mail it to yourself. Don't open it unless it's needed for litigation.

That is a wives tale. That holds nothing in court.

I just delt with something very similar to what Joe was describing, and this wasnt the first time. It was a web related incident.

You would be amazed at the power to scare" that a lawyers "cease and desist" letter has.


beejay's picture

related story from today's Los Angeles Times...

Architect Less Than Flattered
Lawsuits contend that ex-employee used pilfered plans
for real estate mogul's mansion. The case is expected to
test copyright law.,1,2681221.story?coll=la-headlines-california

(arrgh, can't link cleanly)

from the article:

beejay's picture

As far as the poor man's is good to point out
that this alone is not helpful.

But if I remember correctly, it does hold "minor value" in showing

1) diligence
2) that you are cognizant of intellectual property
3) that you want to protect intellectual property

Let's say you went in front of a judge and said,
"I had no idea I could copyright my web site until
I learned it from my attorney."

That would hold less weight than the judge hearing
how diligent you were in trying to protect your work
and seeing your poor man's attempt at copyright.

Of course the minor value would only come into play when
the poor man's legal maneuver is executed in concert with
a properly filed trademark, copyright or patent.

I'm not 100 percent sure on this, but I'll check on it this weekend.

Also, see THIS on Language Police and the term wive's tale


Hildebrant's picture

Sorry for the long post, but I was trying to decide which of these was the *most* ridiculous, and I think pretty much every one fell smack dab into that category.

This is absolutly ••••••• stupid. ;)

Adam and Eve (replace with "Eve and Adam," to demonstrate that males do not take priority over females)
Blind, the (banned as offensive, replace with "people who are blind")

Blind leading the blind, the (banned as handicapism)

Bookworm (banned as offensive, replace with "intellectual")

Boys' night out (banned as sexist)

Busybody (banned as sexist, demeaning to older women)

Cassandra (banned as sexist)

Chief Sitting Bull (banned as relic of colonialism; replace with "Tatanka Iyotake")

Confined to a wheelchair (banned as offensive; replace with "person who is mobility impaired")

Courageous (banned as patronizing when referring to a person with disabilities)

Craftsmanship (banned as sexist)

Cult (banned as ethnocentric when referring to a religious group)

Deaf, the (banned as offensive; replace with people who are deaf" or "a person with loss of hearing")

Devil (banned)

Dialect (banned as ethnocentric; use sparingly)

Differently abled (banned as offensive; replace with "person who has a physical disability")

Dogma (banned as ethnocentric; replace with "doctrine" or "belief")

Drunken, Drunkenness (banned as offensive when referring to Native Americans)

Duffer (banned as demeaning to older men)

East, Eastern (banned as Eurocentric)

Egghead (banned as offensive; replace with "intellectual")

Elderly, the (banned as offensive; replace with "older people")

Extremist (banned as ethnocentric; replace with "believer," "follower," or "adherent")

Fairy (banned because it suggests homosexuality; replace with "elf")

Fanatic (banned as ethnocentric; replace with "believer," "follower," or "adherent")

Founding Fathers, the (banned as sexist; replace with "the Founders" or "the Framers")

Fraternize (banned as sexist)

God (banned)

Heiress (banned as sexist; replace with "heir")

Hell (banned; replaced with "heck" or "darn")

Heretic (use with caution when comparing religions)

Heroine (banned as sexist; replace with "hero")

Huts (banned as ethnocentric; replace with "small houses")

Insane (banned as offensive; replace with "person who has an emotional disorder or psychiatric illness")

Inspirational (banned as patronizing when referring to a person with disabilities)

Jungle (banned; replace with "rain forest")

Junk bonds (banned as elitist)

Lame (banned as offensive; replace with "walks with a cane")

Limping along (banned as handicapism)

Little person (banned as offensive; replace with "person of small stature")

Lumberjack (banned as sexist; replace with "woodcutter")

Majority group (banned as offensive)

Man of war (banned as sexist; replace with "warship")

Mentally ill (banned as offensive; replace with "person with a mental or emotional disability")

Middle East (banned as reflecting a Eurocentric world view; replace with "Southwest Asia"; may be acceptable, however, as a historical reference)

Minority Group (banned as offensive)

Mother Russia (banned as sexist; replace with "Russia, vast land of rich harvests")

Navajo (banned as inauthentic; replace with "Din

hrant's picture

Of all those idiocies, I'd choose:
Pagan (banned as ethnocentric when referring to religion; replace with "nonbeliever")
Because pagans tend to believe in a lot more stuff than monotheists!

Pollyanna: what's that?


Hildebrant's picture

Yacht (banned as elitist)

Are you serious?!?

ohh man.

beejay's picture

don't forget "logo" (banned as lowbrow) in favor of "trademark"

andrew_baker's picture

This is totally of the beaten path, but since Kyle ventured forth into new territory,

Sept. 20-27 is Banned Books Week

Of course you will find some ridiculous selections that have been banned.

The ACLU also has some links if you are interested.


hrant's picture

Here's one I just thought up for the type world:

Fat Face (banned as offensive; use "Plus-Size Face" instead)

Any others?


Hildebrant's picture


meredithalix's picture

Blackletter (banned as racist): use "Letter of Color" instead.

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