Importance of copyright in web design

Published: 28th April 2011
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So you're designing a website of your very own. You have learnt some basic web design principles, kind of mastered HTML, come up with a killer colour scheme and written the content for each page. You've also done a lot of research across the website to find inspiration from other people's websites that focus on similar themes. In the process you've been pretty lucky to come across some graphics, photographs and definitions that are exactly what you need for your own website content. Since someone else has already taken the perfect photo, drawn the ideal image and explained something better than you ever could, there's no harm in including it on your own page, right? Very wrong. Just because something is readily available on the internet does not mean it's a free for all and the consideration of copyright is a very serious part of web design.

To make sure that you don't commit any legal sins in your web design, you must first understand what is meant by copyright. Copyright refers to the right of the owner of a copyrighted work to permit someone else to use or reproduce it. Works most often subject to copyright laws include written works such as stories, articles, and computer programs, as well as graphics and drawn pictures. Copyright also covers music, sounds and audiovisual recordings such as videos and films. It also covers architectural designs and plays, among many other works that are not so relevant to web design. An understanding of copyright is most relevant to the business of web design where graphics, sounds, video, and quotations of text or lyrics are used. Whether taken from hard copy sources or online sources, in most cases copyright laws still apply.

Infringements of copyright in web design are considered to be just as serious offences as any other infringements occurring off-line. In order to avoid penalties and legal action, always make sure the works you reproduce are entirely your own, or that you have received permission from the owner of the copyrighted works. A simple way to avoid legal action against your web design is to remember that if you are not the sole producer of the graphics, text or data that you are using, you must expressly acquire permission from the owner before you can use or reproduce it. This rule also applies to HTML text and other script elements used in web design that similarly cannot simply be taken and reproduced.

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