Website Theft - Part 1 of 3 ~ What exactly is Copyright?

by : Janice Byer, CCVA, MVA

(Please note that some of the information included in this article has been quoted from various locations while other information is simply my personal opinion and you will probably feel my passion in my words.)

The hot topic on many business related email discussion lists for the past little while has been website theft, both content & graphics. Either there seems to be a rash of this dishonest and unethical behaviour or website owners are just finding out that their treasured works have caught the eye of others who feel it is okay to use it as their own.

They say that imitation is supposed to be the greatest form of flattery but, take it from someone who has found their website content appear on someone else’s site, it darn well ticks you off to see your hard work being used by some one else as their own. You work hard to come up with what you include on your website and are probably more than willing to allow some of it to be paraphrased by others but when the culprit doesn’t even ask permission, you get that “heads will roll" feeling inside.

What can be considered copyright material?

The World Intellectual Property Organization (, which is “an international organization dedicated to promoting the use and protection of works of the human spirit", includes the definition of copyright on their website which reads, “Copyright is a legal term describing rights given to creators for their literary and artistic works."

With regard to copyright in relation to the Internet, WIPO has established two treaties, which outline, among other things, that each country “provide a framework of basic rights, allowing creators to control and/or be compensated for the various ways in which their creations are used and enjoyed by others." More information on WIPO and its mandate can be found at

For a complete definition of copyright and to read the Copyright Act in Canada, visit the Department of Justice Canada at

For a complete definition of copyright law in the US, visit the Library of Congress website at

Oh, and the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary lists the definition of copyright as:

Noun : the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, and sell the matter and form (as of a literary, musical, or artistic work)

What is theft?

Speaking of the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (, they define THEFT as:

Noun: 1 a : the act of stealing; specifically : the felonious taking and removing of personal property with intent to deprive the rightful owner of it b : an unlawful taking (as by embezzlement or burglary) of property

Theft of website content and/or graphics can be considered copyright infringement.

The MW dictionary also defines infringement as:

Noun: 1 : the act of infringing : VIOLATION; 2 : an encroachment or trespass on a right or privilege.

In the next instalment of our series on Website Theft, we will look at ways to find out if your website material is being stolen; what the downfalls are of your material being used in other places; and give you some ideas for what to do when you do find out that someone is using your material without your permission.