When I build product content, I take a lot of time and effort to think through the construction, keywords, brand personality, etc. One of my more successful techniques in building sales is the depth and attention I pay to product descriptions.
So, naturally, when a competitor copies and pastes my content onto their own website, I’m a bit miffed, to say the least. Other companies should not be able to piggy-back on my hard work.
The same applies to images. I like to build my own product shots. While manufacturers can often provide high-quality photographs (you’d be surprised how many do not provide good product photos for their resellers), by taking my own photos, I am able to create photos that show scale, use, and are different from my competitors. If my product shows up in a search result of several matches, I want my photo to not be the same manufacturer photo everyone else is using. That sets my product apart visually from all the rest and draws the curiosity of the consumer. It’s a subtle thing, but it works.
I greatly dislike watermarks on photos, especially when the watermark is applied to a photo provided by the manufacturer. If you took the photo, then maybe, but if you did not take the photo, don’t pretend you did.
Should You Register a Copyright?
Many people mistakenly believe that you must register your content with the U.S. Copyright office in order to have protections. But, that’s not entirely true. According to the U.S. Copyright Office, “Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.”
According to the U.S. Copyright Office, “Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.”
In essence, you have protection against others using your work from the date you create the work. The Copyright Office does, however, offer guidelines for how you should announce that the work is owned by you. Basically, you should include on your website (most put this in the footer of the site), the copyright symbol (©) or the word “Copyright,” the year of publication, and the name of the owner.
Now, having this notice and how well it can protect you without registering your site content with the U.S. Copyright Office is a bit murkier. The Copyright Office says, “You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work.” However, we have had a client successful sue and collect damages from a competitor who lifted his product demo video from his website and rebranded it as his own. This content was not registered with the Copyright Office. Formal registration of a Copyright will be a stronger position if you decide to litigate, though. Having the formal registration document from the U.S. Government would clearly indicate the date and ownership beyond question.
To register your site content, however, is a bit complicated. In my opinion, the U.S. Copyright Office has not entirely adjusted to the continual updating and fluidity of the Internet. If you submit the hard copy printouts of a product description page, but then later go in and change some aspect of that content, you have to re-file (and pay another filing fee). Your original copyright would only protect the original content.
The Bottom Line
If you want maximum protection, be prepared to file with the U.S. Copyright Office. For our purposes, we feel comfortable reserving formal registration for the content we feel most protective, and which is unlikely to change. We file for books, downloads, and the like, but for most blog posts, we don’t. They are technically copyrighted by the notice on our website, and, if usurped, we will litigate to the fullest of our ability. But, official filing process and costs means we have to be much more systematic and discerning on what we file.