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Protect Yourself from Copyright Infringement Claims

Posted · Category: Information

Copyright regulations exist to ensure that the owners of intellectual property, such as images, text and other creative works, are protected should their work be used without their permission.

The Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 gives the creators of literary, dramatic, musical, artistic works, sound recordings, broadcasts, films and typographical arrangement of published editions, the right to control the ways in which their content may be used.

Although it’s designed to protect content producers against malicious use, creative professionals such as web designers need to be careful not to breach copyright.

What does the act include?

Written content and articles

Copying articles or content from third parties can constitute a copyright breach, even if the content is modified or adapted. The use of scrapers could also be constituted as a breach, as can placement of ‘dummy text’ that is used on another website, even if it is only used on a development server.

Photography and graphics

Photography and images are one of the most common areas of copyright infringement for web designers. The copyright for any image usually lies with the photographer or website that you purchased the image from. If you use stock images from sites such as iStockphoto, ensure that the licence you purchase on behalf of your client is the correct one. It can be all to easy to purchase a ‘Standard’ licence, when in fact extended rights are needed – so be sure to read up on the licence agreement before you make the purchase.

Source code and scripts

HTML code and scripts (including Javascript) are considered an original work of authorship and, whilst someone may not be able to claim copyright ownership of a general look of a website, it is possible to claim ownership of a style sheet or the coding of an HTML page. Although web designers often look at similar websites to gain inspiration for their ideas, ensure that all coding you do is unique to prevent any allegations of copyright infringement.

Video and sound recordings

When using video or a sound recording, either in its entirety or as a sample, it is necessary to seek the permission of the producer or composer. In the case of stock or copyright-free material, check that the licence is suitable for your application.

The act states that you must have the express permission of the copyright holder to use or modify their creative work. Often, copyright holders will grant permission to use or modify their work through a variety of licences (such as Creative Commons), each with their own series of conditions For example, you may be expected to credit the original author or link back to their website. As a web designer, content writer or graphic designer, misunderstanding these licences can put you and your business at risk of a copyright infringement claim.

The consequences of a copyright claim.

Should you use intellectual property without the correct permission or licences, the owner of that copyright has a right to seek redress and recover damages that they have suffered through misuse of their work. This could include a charge equivalent to what would have been levied for the respective licence, plus any additional losses or costs they may have incurred through your unauthorised use.

In more serious cases, where a claimant believes that the misuse of their intellectual property has caused a loss of sales or damage to their brand, they can seek further damages and these could prove to be significant.

Protecting yourself and your business from a copyright claim.

Web designers can protect themselves from unintentional breach of copyright with professional indemnity insurance. It can cover your legal expenses in defending unintentional breach of copyright (such as accidentally purchasing the wrong image licence for your client), as well as covering the cost of damages that you may be ordered to pay to your client to put right your mistake.

The cover will ensure that, provided the breach is not intentional, you are protected from potentially expensive litigation costs and claims for damages resulting from a copyright infringement claim. Specialist professional indemnity insurers such as Markel can provide cover for web designers, whether they are one man band sole traders or long-established design agencies.

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