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A contribution to a collective work, A part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, A translation, A supplementary work, A compilation, An instructional text, A test, Answer material for a test, or An atlas. It is my opinion that design of a web site does not fall into any of above categories. As a result, you do not own copyright to design and can do nothing about fact that a competitor is using design. Obviously, this is not answer that most site owners want to hear. So, what can you do to protect your business?
When you hire an outside party to design, alter, amend or improve your site, you must have them sign a written contract. The contract must include a clause clearly establishing that copyright to material produced is vested with you, not designer. You should then file contract with your important documents as some designers "forget" that they assigned copyright to you. Presenting a copy of contract and noting that it allows for recovery of attorney's fees usually solves problem.
The issue of copyright ownership of a web site or aspect of a site pops up often. Finding your design being used on another domain is bad enough, but it can get worse. If you sell your business, attorney for party purchasing your business will always ask about copyright of site as part of due diligence process. More than a few business deals have fallen apart when lack of copyright ownership is discovered. Obtaining copyright at outset of your business effort will avoid serious problems in future.
Richard A. Chapo, Esq., is an attorney with www.SanDiegoIncorporate.com and can be contacted at Richard@SanDiegoIncorporate.com. This article is for general education purposes and does not address every facet of the subject matter. Nothing in this article creates an attorney-client relationship.