When it comes to browsing the internet, the two terms, website, and webpage are often used interchangeably. But in fact, they are fairly unlike one another, with various differences. To begin with, first, let’s understand what they exactly mean.
Depending on the context, a webpage is defined as “a single document or a solitary page of any website, attached to a unique URL address used to render or access that particular page.” It is basically a part of a website and several such web pages can be linked to a website. On the other hand, a website is “a collection of several web pages linked together using hyperlinks.” A single domain name is used to link all these web pages in order to uniquely identify the website.
A webpage is a single document with a unique URL, whereas a website is a collection of several web pages in which material on a similar topic or other subject is connected together under a domain address. This is the basic distinction between a webpage and a website. With the advent of the technological era and people becoming more tech-savvy, the web designing and development industry is growing rapidly.
With such cut-throat competition around the world and easy access to information, it is very important to protect one’s intellectual property in the right way and at the right time. Moreover, with the pandemic sending the whole world into virtual mode, Websites are also a creation of one’s intellect and therefore, it is necessary to provide adequate protection to such creations in the form of copyrights.
But can one really copyright websites? The answer is absolutely yes!
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Copyright and Its Importance
A copyright is an instrument of law used to protect the literary and artistic work of an individual. A few examples include music, paintings, writings, fine arts, designs, websites, etc. The most important characteristic of a copyright is that it does not protect the idea itself but the way of expression of that particular idea. In India, copyrights are governed by the Copyright Act, 1957 and the protection granted is for the lifetime of the author and an additional 60 years from the year in which the author died. The symbol for a copyright is ©, for instance, “©2020 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED”.
In today’s world, where the majority of the content is user-generated and easily accessible, the probability of online thievery upsurges. For this reason, businesses must be fully aware of the rights available to them. Although a copyright may be generated as soon as a unique way of expression is created but it needs to be registered so as to have strong legal backing, in case of copyright infringement. Furthermore, registration also acts as an independent proof of your creative work, i.e., it “provides proof of ownership and eligibility for statutory damages” and can also be used as prima facie evidence in case of copyright infringement.
Registration would also provide protection in several other countries across the world, even if the work was first published in India, because India is a member of the Berne Convention, 1886.
Typically, businesses don’t copyright the complete website, but instead copyright individual elements of the website such as, designs, graphics, articles, blogs, photographs, music, recordings, etc.
Now that we know why it is important to copyright the creative work on a website or the website itself, it is also essential that such protection is sought at the right time, neither too late nor too early. Generally, it is recommended to seek such protection before the work is made public, here it means, before the website is launched.
We already know that there are various components, such as designs, graphics, articles, blogs, photographs, music, recordings, etc., in a website. All of these components are eligible for copyright protection under the Copyright Act, 1957. But there are also a few components that do not fall under this category and are ineligible for copyright protection. These components are the functional elements, which include the “layout, format, look and feel, and other unoriginal material such as names, icons or familiar symbols” and cannot be copyrighted.
Furthermore, a separate application has to be made for each element of the website and “updates to the website must be registered separately unless they fall within the limited exceptions for automatic updates and serials.”
For instance, “one develops a computer program, such as an HTML program, which ascertains the format of text and graphics of the website.” Here, one can register for a copyright under the computer programme category, but the registration will not cover the contents of the website.
Who Is The Owner?
Often, we end up hiring someone to design and develop the website for us and in such scenarios, the status of ownership of the copyright is altered. In case the website was designed by your employee(s) as part of their job, you will be the owner of the copyright, whereas if you hire someone, that person will be the owner of the copyright. So as to avoid the hassle regarding the ownership, like in the second scenario, a hire agreement or an assignment agreement can be executed between you and the person hired. Such an agreement would transfer the copyright in your name.
Copyright can either be filed online or offline. The registration process includes the following steps:
In case, the application is being filed through the offline mode, the applicant must fill in the required details mentioned in the application form and submit it to the Department of Copyright along with the standard fee. Whereas, if the applicant opts to fill the application form online, he can do so by visiting the official website clicking on “new registration” and creating an account. Furthermore, the applicant must make sure to attach/upload the required documents as mentioned above.
Once the application is filed offline the applicant is allotted a unique diary number while in the online mode, a unique diary number is generated as soon as the account is created. One can also track the status of the application in the online mode.
A mandatory waiting period of 30 days is observed, in case any objections are to be raised against the application. However, if no objections are raised, the application is forwarded to the examiner for a detailed examination report. Conversely, if any objections are raised, the applicant will be given a fair chance to explain as to why his application should not be rejected. Thereafter, a hearing will take place and if the discrepancies are resolved, the application will proceed further for registration. However, if the examiner is not satisfied with the reasons given by the applicant and the discrepancies are not resolved, the application shall stand rejected.
Once all the discrepancies are resolved and the final examination is completed, the registrar shall register the website copyright and the owner shall be provided with a certificate of website copyright registration.