Own-it | Intellectual Property Know-How for Creative Businesses


I run a website – what do I need to know about IP?

Published 01.11.08 at 09:30

The laws of copyright apply equally to works on the internet as they do in the offline environment. As a result, it is an infringement of copyright to place a book, graphics or song on the internet without the owner's consent. However, there is always a certain amount of risk involved in placing your own work in an environment that facilitates copying. However, by marking your work with proper notices and by regular surveillance of your competitors, the risk of loss due to infringement should be minimal.

In addition, various aspects of a website will be protected by copyright. Firstly, there is copyright in the 'look and feel' of the website – that is, the artistic aspects of the website, otherwise known as the 'front end'. The copyright in the front-end is an amalgam of the various copyrights in the text, drawings, video clips and music which makes up the whole website.

There will also be copyright in the software which powers and operates the website, known as the 'back end'. It is normally the case, in website commission agreements, that the commissioner will own the front end; however the software which operates the back aspect of it will belong to the software developer, who will license it out to the commissioner. However, many open source content management systems (CMS) are reversing that trend, by providing free back-end software for companies to use. 

For more information, listen to our free podcast 'Your work on the web and how to protect it'.

Content provided by Briffa. Photo credit: Ed Yourdon


Please note that this article discusses the legal position in the UK at the time of publication. It provides general information only but is not to be regarded as legal advice. You must take advice from a specialist lawyer in relation to your specific circumstances. Further, you should seek additional legal advice when dealing with parties based in other parts of the world or works originating from other parts of the world as the legal position may vary.


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