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What Copyright Protection Is Available For Material On My Web Site? 
James Lane

Material posted electronically on your business web site can qualify for copyright protection. You can copyright original, creative work, including literary, musical and artistic works. Protection only extends to the manner in which you have expressed your ideas, not the ideas themselves. Generally speaking, anyone is entitled to take your ideas and use them for themselves as long as they don’t copy your creative expression of those ideas. To obtain a copyright, the form of expression of your idea must emanate from you, not another author. The creativity requirement is minimal. For example, you can obtain copyright for a database containing publicly available information which you have compiled and posted on your web site.

Unlike patents, you can obtain copyright without formally registering your work. However, registration is inexpensive and can assist you in proving that the work belongs to you, not a competitor who pirated material from your web site.

Your business obtains copyright over the work of an employee working in the course of employment. Your business will not own the work of a consultant or independent contractor unless you have a contract stating that your business obtains ownership.

If your work is copyright protected, you are entitled to prevent others from making unauthorized use of it. You can keep a competitor from copying the material onto their web site or caching data obtained from your site at another location and using that material for commercial purposes. Your remedies include the right to obtain an injunction, monetary damages or an accounting of profits made by your competitor.

To assert copyright over a work, you may want to include on your web page a copyright notice in the following form: year of publication, name of owner.

You can also add the words: "All Rights Reserved",

for example: 2004, James Lane, All Rights Reserved.

Consider too whether you want to state limitations on the use that others may make of your material.

James Lane practices commercial litigation with Paterson, MacDougall in Toronto. He has extensive experience advising and representing small business. He can be reached at 416-643-3326 or email 

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