Do I need to copyright my website?

A question we often get asked is around copyright on the websites we produce. In this article we take a quick look at the reality in this space in Australia.

Browse around the web, and you’ll see in almost all cases the little © icon in the footer, along with the year the site was produced and the company’s name. We often get asked what the process is to have this copyright ratified by the government, or if there are any fees involved for registration of copyright.

The short answer is – you don’t need to do anything!

The copyright that an owner has on their website is automatic, and there is no need to register with any government agencies. When you get a website designed by most designers (including Webfirm of course), you own the copyright on the website that you commissioned, not the designer. It’s worth checking on this arrangement though, if you elect to use a subscription-based service to build and host your site. Squarespace, Unbounce, Wix and other hosted services like these may have their own copyright terms built in to their Terms and Conditions, so it pays to check.

What elements of my website are protected by copyright?

According to the Australian Copyright Council, the answer to this is a little more complex than you might think. Websites are essentially a multimedia presentation, a collection of static and components. Each of those items which had some kind of creativity involved in its production is protected by copyright, but elements which were used from outside or borrowed are not.

Protected Elements

  • News articles you or a contractor wrote
  • Blog posts you or a contractor wrote
  • Page content written by you or a contractor
  • Photographs that you/your designer took
  • Illustrations that you/your designer created
  • Your logo
  • Music that you wrote or had written
  • Other audio that you recorded
  • Video or animation you had filmed or created


Non-Protected Elements

  • Your Content Management System
  • Text you copied from a supplier or elsewhere
  • News articles you reproduced from elsewhere
  • The coding framework that makes up the site
  • Photos or graphics you found on the internet
  • Supplier, partner, industry or other logos
  • Music or audio used that you did not create
  • Video or animation you did not create
  • YouTube videos you embed

What protections are there against people copying my website?

The nature of the internet is that a copy of your work gets transmitted to a remote computer when they access your website. So, it’s almost impossible to stop people who want to do the wrong thing from doing so. To discourage people from doing so, however, there are a few things that you can do to make your work a little more difficult to copy.

  • Watermark your product images and your photos (your website designer should be able to help with this if you can’t do it yourself)
  • Use low resolution photos/images that people wouldn’t want to steal, where appropriate
  • Use your robots.txt or noindex tags to block access to sections of your site by Google if you don’t want your content to be indexed
  • Put a good copyright notice on your site! © 2016 BusinessName Pty Ltd might do the job for many small businesses, but consider whether a more meaty paragraph explaining what elements are yours to give away and which are definitely your property, to give potential thieves some context.

Hopefully that helps to paint a bit of a picture if you were hazy about how copyright works for businesses in Australia. Don’t treat this is legal advice though – if you’re unsure, speak to your lawyer.