Intellectual Property (IP) is essentially the ownership of your creations and ideas. IP laws afford you a number of rights in order to protect your ideas from theft. These rights are dependent on the nature of your creation. The protection of intellectual property is broken into four separate categories. IP Australia administers patents, trademarks and designs as mechanisms to safeguard your intellectual property. In addition, copyright protections are the responsibility of the Department of Communications and the Arts.
As a business owner, a website is a fundamental component of your operation. It can often be what distinguishes you from your competitors. Therefore, it is definitely something you want to protect from any potential replication. However, the four intellectual property tools do not technically protect a website in its entirety. Rather, copyright can protect the individual components of your website. The Australian Copyright Council identifies the types of website content that copyright will protect, in it’s fact sheet on websites and user generated content. These include the following:
- Literary Works – Content in written form, articles, blogs, source code etc.
- Artistic Works – Visual content, photos, illustrations, logos, charts etc.
- Cinematograph Films – Videos/Animation
- Compilations – Tables of words and symbols
Copyright will automatically protect any of this content which you create for your website, as long as it’s in material form. This will give you grounds to take legal action if you feel someone is infringing upon your copyright. It is up to you as the copyright owner to identify any infringements and take subsequent action. There is no authority or organisation that will investigate potential copyright breaches for you.
To determine whether there is an infringement, you will have to assess every individual section of your website. A copyright breach will occur if a substantial part of these components is being used by someone without your permission. If you’re unsure about a potential infringement, seeking the advice of a copyright lawyer may be helpful in order to determine whether you have a case or not. Also, if you are using an external company to design your website, consider an intellectual property agreement in order establish who owns what.
If you feel the copyright protections are not adequate enough, there are alternative protection measures that fall outside intellectual property law. For example, if you believe a competitor has a website that mimics the feel of yours in order to deceive consumers, you can take action against them through consumer protection laws and the common law of passing off.
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