Every now and then, us Web designers will have to face the fact that our design has been illegally copied. And the typical designer will want to resolve the situation as quickly as possible. This guide explains not only what steps you can take to prevent the theft of your designs, but outlines what actions you should take against anyone who copies your work.
Prevention really is better than cure. The best thing to do is to try to prevent the illegal reproduction of your design before it even happens. Some suggest that you should disable the users’ right click capability, place transparent images over your real images, “scramble” your source code, and more. However, none of these methods truly protect your content from being copied — and all do more to alienate your regular visitors than they do to protect your design. The absolute bottom line with copyright is: if you don’t work to be stolen, don’t put it on the Web. For some, it’s not even worth the risk. But for others, this approach is a bit radical, and the majority will try to think of some better ways to protect what’s theirs.
The most important thing you should always do is to label your work with the appropriate copyright disclaimers, trademarks, etc. It’s a great idea to have a “legal notices” page on your Web Site, to inform everyone in complete detail that copying someone’s work is a violation of international copyright laws, and that they will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law if they use your work without your express consent. Publishing this warning helps deter would-be design thieves, and helps reinforce to all users that you know your rights.
A good user community is not only essential to maintaining a good traffic flow; if your site is copied, and you have a good community of visitors, you can be pretty sure that someone will notice it and let you know. If you have a message board, create a thread in your forums to let your users know that any information they can provide about illegal rips will be greatly appreciated (or even consider providing some rewards for good leads) as an additional measure.
Doing a little work like this in advance won’t eliminate every threat of illegal copying, but will cut down on the number of cases you have to chase.