Legal aspects of Webdesign: Frequently asked questions

This chapter answers some frequently asked questions regarding copyrights, patents, trademarks and database law as it applies to website design.

Questions on copyright

Can a Website be copyrighted?

A Website is usually an original work with some kind of artistic value, so it would be copyrighted. In addition, the individual pages and images are also copyrighted.

Can the look or layout of a Website be copyrighted?

Copyright mainly concerns itself with the expression of an idea. The idea itself is not copyrighted and may be used freely by others. So, something like a navigation bar at the left on every page is not copyrighted, although a particular navigation bar, with certain colors and arrangement of the items on the bar may be.

How do I stop someone from copying my site?

First, write a letter to this person informing him of the copyright status of your work, and ask that he removes the pages. If he does not do that, you can contact his service provider with the same information. Most providers are very cooperative when it comes to copyright infringement, so if you can provide a reasonable argument that that someone is infringing on your copyright, they will take appropriate action.

Someone used (part of) my Website in an article. What can I do?

Send him a bill. In most countries, your national journalist or writer's association can give you more information on the appropriate rate for unauthorized use of your work. In my country, the Netherlands, using someone's article or photo without prior permission can be billed at 300% of the normal rate.

What rate you can charge, depends on how your Website is set up and whether it is your normal work to write articles of this type. If you offer information free of charge, then it will be more difficult to successfully send a bill.

Questions on trademarks

Does the name X infringe on trademark Y?

When a word looks or sounds similar to a trademark, it can be seen as confusing, and if that is the case, the word infringes on the trademark. However, this is in general very difficult to say. When in doubt, please consult an attorney for an expert opinion.

Questions on patents

How do I find out if something is patented?

The best way to do this is to contact a patent attorney, who can perform an extensive search in all published patents for you. You can also search for yourself in databases such as Delphion's patent database, but keep in mind that not everyone uses the same keywords, so you may miss things by only looking for the "usual" keywords.

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