Businesses rely on website developers to provide an online competitive advantage. On its surface, a website development process may comprise identifying individual web page requirements, developing the web page structure and content, and launching the website. Below its surface, website development involves layers of copyright licenses. In this interview with Lynne D’Autrechy, owner of Buzzquake Marketing, we learn that proper website development balances clients’ requirements with copyright license limitations.
A consumer may stop for mere seconds on a business’s website. Website content must engage consumers and convince them to remain and consider the highlighted business’s offerings. However, websites may include elements that raise copyright issues. Website design elements may include images, video, or audio content. A photographer, for example, owns copyrights in a photograph. The rights comprise the right to copy the photograph, distribute the photograph, and make a derivative work of the photograph. The photographer may license these rights to stock photography sources, who, in turn, license these rights to website developers. In other words, website developers leveraging photograph design elements must understand terms of copyright use.
Ms. D’Autrechy accesses outside stock photography sources, such as Creative Commons, for photograph design elements. Photographers distributing their works through Creative Commons impose requirements, such as attribution, limited distribution, noncommercial use, or no derivatives on a website developer’s use of the works. Ms. D’Autrechy respects the photographers’ choices. A license to use an ideal stock photograph may include unacceptable limitations, “and that is where we have to be careful.” She explains, “Sometimes pictures will have different licenses available and I have to make sure I get the right one. If the image I want to use does not have the type of license I need then I will not use that image.” A photograph that is a perfect fit for the website look may not be a perfect fit with the website objectives. “If you have a photo that’s a creative commons license, and it’s only licensed for non-commercial and you use it on a commercial website, then you’re violating the license.” Web developers must respect copyrights in accessed photograph design element content.
Website elements may also include coded, functional elements, such as collecting payments and retainers, conference registration, or animation. Like a photographer, a coder owns copyright in code. As with photography, the rights comprise, for example, the right to copy the code, distribute the code, and make a derivative work of the code. A Stanford University-educated computer scientist, Ms. D’Autrechy codes functional elements into her clients’ websites. Ms. D’Autrechy may develop commercial web sites using the WordPress® platform and brand of website content management tools. The platform sits on freely available source code (open source) for use in WordPress websites via a GNU Public License. The code may be freely available, but copying or modifying the code, except as provided in the license, violates the license. “I feel like it’s really important to pay attention to protecting the work people have done, and not taking advantage of what they’ve put out there.” Indeed, the GNU Public License agrees with Ms. D’Autrechy and covers derivatives of WordPress code. (See https://wordpress.org/about/license/). Web developers must respect limits on open source development when developing functional elements.
Each commercial website is a collection of elements. A website developer is responsible for respecting copyrights in sourced design elements and code. Website developers, like Ms. D’Autrechy, who respect copyright license terms encourage continued availability of the licensed works. I want to thank Lynne D’Autrechy for sharing her expertise on website development and copyright licenses. To learn more about Ms. D’Autrechy’s digital marketing agency, please visit Buzzquake Marketing.
Hutchison Law, LLC has experience protecting intellectual property rights, such as copyrights. To learn more about our intellectual property practice, please contact us at 410-978-7287 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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