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The Small Business Website Guide

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Protecting your online intellectual property

Follow our tips for keeping your intellectual property protected

When a business makes a list of its assets, it may think of property, stock, equipment, machinery and patents. One overlooked, but equally valuable, asset is its web content. Just because something isn’t tangible or doesn’t have a specific value attributed to it, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth protecting.

Most businesses today have a web domain and many run company blogs, publish whitepapers or helpful user guides. These are assets that have been created by employees of the company and are therefore subject to copyright Intellectual Property (IP) rights. This means that it is an offence for anyone to copy or repurpose it without permission. Here are a few quick facts about copyright IP:

  • Copyright is an automatic right – businesses do not have to apply or pay for intellectual property protection
  • As soon as the work is “fixed” e.g. written down, recorded or saved to a computer, copyright is active
  • Copyright is often denoted by © followed by the name of the creator and date it was produced
  • Online literary works are protected under copyright for the duration of the creators lifetime, plus 70 years

Materials produced in the UK will gain automatic protection across most of the world, but if a writer officially registers for copyright in the USA they can gain extra protection. Copyright applies to how an idea is expressed or written down, not the idea itself. For example, any person is free to blog on the topic of “Biggest Internet trends in 2014”, but they couldn’t lift exact phrases or illustrations directly from another’s work.

Creators can, however, license or sell the rights to their work and can even transfer the copyright to another person if they want to - perhaps a son or daughter. If anyone would like to use that work they must apply directly to the creator. Alternatively, businesses can employ the services of an organisation which will handle copyright requests and distribute royalties.

To conduct a “copyright health check” and get more information on website copyright, visit the Intellectual Property Office website or call 0300 300 2000.