Website infringement occurs when someone steals copyrighted content and places it on a website. Generally, the content is stolen from a different website. While protection is available in the United States and certain other countries for website infringement based on copyright laws, enforcing the law and recovering damages can be difficult in some cases.
Websites can generally be protected under copyright law. Copyright laws protect works of authorship; the author of a work is entitled to full use and exclusive publishing rights of that work if he copyrights it. While copyrights do not prohibit others from talking about the same basic idea or concept as someone else, the copyright does protect an author from having all or part of his work stolen in whole.
In order for a website to be copyrighted, the appropriate papers must be filed with the federal copyright office, within the United States, or with other organizations that enforce copyrights in the given jurisdiction. Once a website has filed a copyright, the content on that site is protected under the law, just as a book, art or any other original artistic work would be protected. This means that a person who experiences website infringement can sue under copyright law.
Website infringement may exist when someone takes some or all of a copyrighted website and transmits it for distribution without the author's permission. Fair use exceptions that apply to all copyrights apply to website infringement as well. This means a website author can take or reprint portions of a copyrighted website as long as the author adds something to it, criticizes, comments or changes it, and/or attributes the work to the original author.
Website infringement can be difficult to enforce because of the widespread accessibility available online. A person from any country could steal some or all material from a website and pass it off as his own, either online on his own website or in other print forms. The person whose website content was stolen would have to sue under copyright to receive damages or to get a court to command the other party to stop. When the two involved parties are geographically distant, this can be difficult or impossible, especially if the copyright laws are not the same in the different countries.
Because websites can be anonymous, an anonymous person or group could also steal content. This too makes such infringement difficult to enforce. A plaintiff whose copyrighted work is stolen cannot file an infringement claim unless he knows who took the work.