Imagine how you would feel if, having spent the effort, time, and expense on having a professional website designed by a web design agency, you publish your site and then weeks later you discover that another business or individual has copied the content on your website and used on theirs. We are assuming that would create any number of emotions including anger.
Whilst copying content from a website might not seem as serious a crime as walking into a business and stealing money or products, but it is stealing, nonetheless. This type of stealing is called copyright theft, and the good news is you do have legal rights that can protect you from it and seek recourse if it happens to you.
The theft of content from a website can elicit a claim for a breach of copyright under the 1968 Copyright Act. The types of content that are covered include written text, images, illustrations, and videos. Almost anything which has been created on your behalf and published on your website should be covered bar a few exceptions, such as public domain content.
If you suspect that someone has stolen content from your website or have evidence that they have done so, then the first step is to contact your commercial lawyer. One of the first tasks they will advise is to try is to have the stolen content removed from where it has been published and your lawyers will also explain the most effective methods of achieving that.
Whilst ignorance is no defence against any kind of misdeed or crime, some people genuinely believe that anything on the internet is fair game, and that that they can copy anything they find and use it. That is not the case, but we mention it as it does not always follow that content is stolen for a nefarious reason. It instead could be a case of ignorance of copyright law.
Another applicable phrase is prevention being better than the cure, and this is why we recommend that on every page of your website you include the word ‘Copyright’ with the copyright symbol ‘©’, your business name, and the year. It may not be enough to stop someone who is going to steal content anyway, but it may be enough to stop those who are aware of copyright legalities.
Having a copyright notice also allows you to send a cease and desist letter to the person, organisation, or business that has stolen and republished your content. The letter should demand they unpublish your content and that they must do so within a specific timeframe. In many cases, they will comply, and it is common for the other party to be genuinely sorry and to apologise for their ignorance of the copyright law. This is the ideal outcome that you want
The other outcome, which is not so welcome, is that the deadline for removal expires, and the stolen content remains live. Worse the other party may write back and claim the content is not subject to copyright, which they may be within their rights to do so if you have not posted the aforementioned copyright notice on every page of your website.
Should you choose to do so, the next step is to instruct your commercial lawyer to commence legal proceedings against the offending party. This may not be a quick, easy, or cheap process so make sure you follow the advice of your commercial lawyer as to your chances of success.