You have a website; it is your pride and joy and you cannot wait until others see it. What happens next is not what you anticipated, however. You get it out the public and start advertising it like crazy so that your business takes off in an upward fashion, yet all of a sudden you start to see copycat businesses out there and they are using your content! What do you do? If your content has a copyright, there is plenty you can do, but you must start there. You must register your website, content, or artwork with the U.S. Copyright Office.
Registering Your Work
As soon as you create your website, content, or artwork, register it immediately. Once it is registered, no one can copy, steal, or use your content. If they do, they are in violation of the copyright laws and stand to be sued. Without that registration, however, you do not have a leg to stand on. Sure, you could point fingers and say that someone stole your content or is using it without your permission, but there is nothing a federal court can do without that registration and state courts cannot hear copyright cases that deal with the internet – it is solely for the federal jurisdiction.
The Power of a Copyright
Once you have a registered copyright, you have the right to sue anyone that uses your content. If you register the complaint, the ball is in the court of the perpetrator to prove that he is not using your content illegally. You have to file as soon as you see your work being used, however. Even if that person does not cause any damage to your work, you still may be able to sue for damages. The only way you will know is with proper counsel, however.
No matter how small or inconsequential you think your website may be, if you run it as a business, you have rights. In order to protect those rights, you need to have a copyright. If you are not sure where to start or are sure that your rights have already been violated, secure the services of a qualified attorney that can help you determine what rights you have and then he can help you get started to stop anyone else from stealing your intellectual property as you try to make a name for yourself.