Q: Should I copyright my website?

A: Copyright protection is available to original works “fixed” in a tangible medium of expression. While there is limited case law on the subject, at least two Federal District courts have held that the design and layout of a website is within the subject matter of the Copyright Act.[1]

Registration of a work is not required for it to be protected under federal copyright law. However, copyright registration does benefit authors by creating assumptions of ownership and by imposing certain statutory damages on infringers, not otherwise available.

Deciding whether to register a website for copyright protection will depend heavily on the
substantive nature of your site.

If the material on your site is primarily original video or images, it should be separately registered in its original format, if possible. However, if the original format is web-based, such as a flash movie, then you should register your site.

If the material on your site is primarily text, you should examine whether the writing is in fact copyrightable, and also whether the content should be separately registered. If the
content has only been published on the web, then you would want to register your website.

If the site has a highly original and unique design or layout, it may be beneficial to copyright the site in its entirety. While a site may be aesthetically pleasing, if the layout
or design is not original (in the copyright sense it may not receive copyright protection under the Copyright Act.

Regardless of whether your website is registered for copyright protection, you should also consider the issue of branding. Any trademark or service mark should be separately protected under trademark law, by filing for appropriate trademark protections.

Thus, if your website’s content, design and are unique and original, copyright registration will likely be a good idea.


[1] Kantemirov
v. Goldine, 2005 WL 1593533 (N.D. Cal.,2005) (“Given the flexible definition of works falling with the scope of the Copyright Act. . .website design and layout. . .fall[] within the general subject matter of the Copyright Act.”). Thestreet.com, Inc. v. Wall Street Interactive Media Corp., 1998 WL34194887, (SDNY 1998) (enjoining alleged infringer from copying design or layout of website).