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If you are one of the millions of web publishers or bloggers on the internet, do you know if you are in violation of another party’s trademark or copyright? Do you know if someone on the internet is violating your trademark or content under copyright protection? Typically web publishers spend so much time learning how to increase website traffic and how to increase website ranking. But how much time is invested in learning your rights and the rights of others in regard to copyright and trademarks? No matter where you are located it’s always important to be aware of your rights and the rights of others. I am a United States resident, so for the purpose of this brief introduction into copyright and trademarks I’ll be discussing the laws pertinent to the US; as they are the only ones that I’m familiar with.

To start, understand that anything written is automatically protected by copyright. Even if something does not explicitly state that it is copy written, all published material is protected by copyright. It is possible to file for a copyright with the US government for a copyright (copyright.gov), but in my opinion it’s not really necessary for websites. There is a very clear distinction that should be kept in mind; ideas are not protected under copyright, but what is written and how it was written is. So what exactly is copyright?

Definition: “Copyright is a set of exclusive rights granted to the author or creator of an original work, including the right to copy, distribute and adapt the work.”

This should go without saying, but never copy or redistribute another’s work claiming it to be your own. The redistribution or use of another’s work may only legally be used under copyright with the written permission from the author who owns the material.

Little known fact: Copyright does not apply to domain names in the U.S.

Unlike copyright, trademarks a whole different classification of protection. Applying for a trademark should definitely be taken under consideration, especially if you are considering to build a serious online business. Sure business names, logos, slogans, or photos are protected under copyright to some extent, but the protection that copyright grants is very limited and doesn’t carry a lot of weight. For instance, if you create a logo and someone copied it and changed the smallest detail such as the colors; legally that person would not be in violation of copyright law. Sure that person may be a jerk and stole your work, but no laws were broken. On the other hand if the same scenario took place with a trademarked logo and you filed a suit against this person they would be in some serious trouble with the law. Trademark carries significantly more weight than copyright does, but it costs a lot more money to file for a trademark.

Definition: “Trademark is a distinctive sign or indicator used by an individual, business organization, or other legal entity to identify that the products or services to consumers with which the trademark appears originate from a unique source, and to distinguish its products or services from those of other entities.”

As I previously stated, this article is just an introduction to copyright and trademark law. I believe that web publishers should be just as aware of these laws as any other laws to better protect themselves and the rights of others. This way you will have a clear understanding and know under what conditions your hard work is protected under when you find your website listed on google page one.