Issue # 2: Protection of Original Website Content
Successful e-commerce businesses invest a great deal of time, effort, and money developing their websites. They create original art and text then combine these elements to form a unique platform from which to market and sell to the public. Though their websites may be among their most valuable assets, e-commerce businesses rarely think to fully protect their investment.
As previously posted on E-Commerce Law, a successful e-commerce business is likely to attract imitators, who liberally "borrow" website content to drive their own sales. Sincere flattery or not, failing to properly protect the original website content makes it very difficult to prevent imitators from benefiting from the work of the original website’s author.
In too many instances, an e-commerce market leader finds itself suddenly beset by competitors who have been able to implement their websites quickly and easily by using content taken from the market leader. Several years ago this was happening in the online market for satellite television products and services. The largest online retailer for one of the major satellite television providers found that original portions of its website content were being copied and used by its competitors. In fact, a cottage industry had arisen in which companies sold turn-key web solutions for companies who wished to sell satellite television products and services on the Internet – many with content taken directly from the market leader.
An e-commerce business can protect the original content of its website, and reduce the risk of loss associated with this sort of imitation, by:
- Archiving the website regularly. Regular archiving permits a business to demonstrate what content was on its website at what point in time. Archiving is a crucial step in demonstrating ownership of original content and establishing the terms and conditions applicable to a particular user’s access and use of the site. It can be performed in-house or outsourced.
- Obtaining United States and foreign copyright registrations of appropriate material. Original website content may be copyrightable. The issuance of a federal copyright registration provides the content owner with additional protections and enforcement options not otherwise available, such as the ability to sue infringers of the copyrighted work in federal court. Information Circular 66, published by the United States Copyright Office, provides general information about the copyright registration of websites and other online works in the United States.
Previous Posts in this Series
"Common Issues Faced by E-Commerce Businesses" is a seven-part series appearing each Tuesday afternoon on E-Commerce Law. Readers are reminded that all of the information on this site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for legal counsel. No one should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content included on this site but should instead seek the appropriate legal advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a properly licensed attorney.
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