Web Writing

Copyright Infringement And Websites: What You Need To Know


Protecting your website against copyright infringement is a serious matter. Other sites may be using your material right now without your permission and tainting your brand. Below I’ve explained what cover you get, how you can get additional protection, and how to tackle infringement of your website.

What’s copyright and can I protect my website?

Copyright is legislation used to protect original creative material from being used without permission. This covers a range of mediums, such as:

  • Images
  • Content
  • Drama

Your website contains at least some of these elements, and may well contain all of them. This means that whatever the level of your website (from one person blog to global ecommerce brand), it is entitled to copyright protection.

What are the North American copyright laws for websites?

The two North American nations have their own copyright legislation, each of which protects websites. While they cover many of the same things, offering similar protection, they aren’t identical. These are the key details of the copyright laws of in the U.S. and Canada.


The Copyright Act of 1976 protects artists and authors. It gives them the exclusive rights to use and distribute their work. It covers the creator for their entire life and remains in place for 70 years after they have died.

Your website and it’s creative material is covered by the Copyright Act of 1976 from the point of creation. However, I advise that you register your website with the U.S. Copyright Office. This is because it allows you to make a civil claim if your website suffers copyright infringement.


Canada’s Copyright Act was first passed in 1921. Like the U.S. version, it gives exclusive rights to the author and covers all “original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic” creations. The are different ranges of cover, but most are for the author’s life plus fifty years following their death.

Your website and its material is protected by Canadian copyright law from the moment of creation. Like the U.S. Act, you can get civil protection by registering your website.

Why must you care about copyright infringement?

Your website is your original artistic work. It contains material you have created and you have the rights to it. This covers the basic parts of your website, such as:

  • The content you publish on it
  • The images you create for it
  • The videos you make for it

But that’s not all. If you create a resource for your website, like an eBook, a whitepaper, or an infographic, these are covered too.

If someone uses anything from your website without your permission they are guilty of copyright infringement. This means you are eligible to compensation. But why do care? Because the likelihood is that someone will infringe your copyright at some point. If you aren’t properly covered then your material will be used on sites you have no control over.

How to tackle copyright infringement of your website

You should take the necessary steps to cover your website against copyright infringement. Register it with the appropriate regional body, or bodies, and you will secure yourself to take the necessary legal action.

The important thing is that you deal with any violations quickly, as the longer your material is used without your permission the more damage it can do to your website. If your website is the victim of copyright infringement there are a few steps you can take.

Send a cease and desist

The first response to any copyright infringement for your website is to tell the offending website to stop using your material. You do this by sending a cease and desist letter. This outlines the actions you will take if your website’s copyright continues to be infringed.

File a DMCA dispute

The U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was introduced in 1998 to add another layer of protection to authors. It covers websites and filing a DMCA dispute is how you use this cover. If you see your work being used by a website without your permission, locate their DMCA badge. Here you will find the steps needed to file a dispute.

How to avoid infringing another website’s copyright

It’s not only your website’s material that risks copyright infringement. Many cases of work being used without permission happen by accident – you could be infringing another website’s copyright without realizing it. There are a few simple steps you can take to avoid this.

  • Publish material available for free use: This covers anything defined as “free cultural work.” Check to see if what you’re using is Creative Commons approved. If it is then review how you are allowed to use it, as there are different levels of permission
  • Ask the website before you publish: If you’re not sure if you have permission to use the material then contact the website. This removes the risk of them sending you a cease and desist, or threatening legal action
  • Only upload your own, original work: To take away any chance of you infringing another website’s copyright, don’t upload anything you’ve not made yourself. Sounds simple and it is. The problem with this is that it limits what you can publish

Copyright infringement is very serious. If someone else adds your work to their website without your permission you lose control over it. This means your brand, business, or blog may be associated with a site that has the wrong values. If this happens, your website’s image could be damaged, causing you to lose visitors or customers.

Protect yourself against copyright infringement by registering your website with the appropriate organization, and only publishing material you’re allowed to use. But don’t stop there. Keep a lookout for your work to make sure it’s not being uploaded without your permission – website’s using it illegally are unlikely to tell you they’re infringing your copyright!


About the author

Kayleigh Alexandra

A writer and small business owner, Kayleigh is an expert in all things content, freelance, marketing, and commercial strategy.

Favourite charity? All things microfinance appeal to me.

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