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Intellectual Property in Websites and Copyright Issues

Your website represents your business on the Internet and it is through your online presence that you deal with the public and generate intellectual property output.

It is a valuable asset of your business, represents your brand online and should be protected like any of your other assets.

Here are some ways to protect the IP in the works on your website.


Copyright protection is free and automatic. Copyright law gives you full ownership in your creative works. These rights do not need to be registered. The content on your website is protected by copyright provided that it is original. For example, copyright exists in the images, videos, written material, databases, software, layout and graphic user interfaces on your webpages.

A copyright notice is not required by law, but it is good practice to inform your website visitors that rights exist on your website. This way, visitors are put on notice that you have proprietary rights in the works on the website and these are subject to copyright. You can do this by adding a copyright notice on your homepage in a prominent location or at the bottom of every page on your website page.

The symbol for copyright protection universally is the letter C in a circle.

For example, © ABC Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.

For specific works, a copyright notice should include the copyright symbol, the name of the author, and the date.

In addition, your website terms and conditions should have a well-drafted clause that address your intellectual property rights, including that copyright exists in the works on your website and that it should not be used without the copyright owner’s permission.

If you need to start legal action against someone for copying your work, having a copyright notice in place is helpful, as then a person can’t claim they were unaware the work was protected. They were put on notice that the work is yours! It will also deter people from copying your website content.

Online Infringement and using the Copyright Work of others

In turn, you must not copy or use the work of others on your website without their permission otherwise you risk being accused of copyright infringement. If you want to put any text, photos, video clips, music or logos on your website, you must obtain clearance first if the material does not belong to you.

For example, with images or sound clips, make sure these are either your original creations, licensed from third parties with the appropriate rights or that you are free to use the work without payment of any royalties. Be careful with using photographs on your website, as you will need the authorisation of the photographer or the copyright owner.

Watch out with linking also. Avoid infringing acts by not providing links from your website to sites where people can download infringing material to avoid allegations that you facilitated others to participate in copyright infringement or authorised the infringing acts. For example, links to websites that contain pirated content or unlawful software programs.

Remember, an independent website developer will typically own the copyright in your website unless you have obtained a transfer of those rights. If your website has been developed by contractors, you do not own the IP in their work even if you have paid for that work, unless you have obtained an assignment in writing of that work.

Issues Concerning Domain names and Trade Marks

A domain name is an address on the Internet, but it does not give IP rights. When you pay to register a domain name, you are paying for a licence to use the DNS with the name that you have selected for your website, for a specific period of time. The registrant of a domain name does not actually own the domain name, but only obtains a license to use it. Only trade mark rights give you ownership of a name. If your domain name can also be registered as a trade mark, it is advisable to obtain ownership of the matching name through trade mark rights.

Take Away Points:

  • Protect your intellectual property rights, and be aware that works such as text, photographs, software and other material made available on your website are protected by copyright if they are original.
  • Be mindful, also, of the intellectual property rights of others when posting content on your website, to avoid allegations of intellectual property infringement.
  • You can obtain the right to use the works of others by obtaining an assignment or a licence.
  • Ensure that your business owns the intellectual property in the works on your website when you use independent contractors or outsource the development of your website.
  • A domain name is an address on the Internet, so your customers know where to find you online. You can only gain rights over the name by registering a trade mark.


Jaclyn-Mae Floro, BCompSc

Contact W3IP Law on 1300 776 614 or 0451 951 528 for more information about any of our services or get in touch at

Disclaimer. The material in this post represents general information only and should not be taken to be legal advice.

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