Websites and Copyright

Recently, I was chatting to one of our clients about her website content. She was rewriting her website pages, as she felt they were being copied from others in her industry. From this, the conversation about what’s covered by copyright on a website came up.

The Australian Copyright Council has a great fact sheet on this topic (titled “Websites & Copyright”), which is the guidance I’ll be sharing in this article.

Firstly – a website in its entirety is not under copyright, it’s the elements that make the website that are subject to copyright individually, eg. your business logo, photos, illustrations, videos, animations, and text. And generally, most elements that makes up a website will have copyright.

What does this mean?

It means that using text and images from other websites without permission may see you infringing copyright. We see people fall into this trap often and innocently. For example – people don’t realise that Google Images aren’t “free” images, but each image in the search results belong to a website. You need to contact the owner of the original website to seek permission to publish their image on your website.

The best thing to do is use your own images where possible. When that’s not possible, look at stock image libraries, where you purchase rights to use an image.

Text and content is the other part of the equation. Google search is already onto this, by punishing websites who plagiarise text from another website. In short: write your own content. Don’t copy words from another website and hope for the best. There are exceptions to this – if you are citing a reference or quoting (and acknowledging the source), with relevant conversation around the reference/quote (such as a review or news article), that’s okay. Direct copying is the issue. Always best to be original.

How do I protect my own text and images?

According to the Australian Copyright Council, “Any copyright material you create for your website (such as text, photos and artworks) is automatically protected by copyright as soon as it is saved to disk, USB drive, hard drive or otherwise in “material form”.”

So if you are working on text for your website, save a copy of it somewhere other than on your website. This may be in the form of a document or file saved on your computer. This will help identify you as the original writer and publisher of the content, should the situation arise that someone copies your text.

With images, you can make them less appealing for others to use by:

  • adding a watermark on the images;
  • uploading low-resolution versions of your images (making them unsuitable for resizing or printing).

What do I do if someone has copied my text and images?

If you find your text and images on another website without your permission, the first place to start is by contacting the owner and asking them to remove or attribute the works (depending on what you would prefer). If they don’t respond to your request, you can contact the website’s host about the copyright infringement, or seek legal representation to follow it up on your behalf.