Patent Law & Web Design: What You Need to Know

In 1998, you may have waited a few minutes for a high-quality photo of your grandparents in Bemidji to load from an e-mail or on the Geocities site they created to chronicle their cross-country RV trip. Now, media whizzes through the digital ether at an unforeseen speed and volume. The advent of social media has brought literally billions of new photos and images to the Internet and the culture of sharing is such that a simple right-click can lock that image into hard drives around the world.

Image Credit

Unless it is otherwise stated in a contract with a web service provider (you must accept the Terms of Agreement for most sites on which you place content) or other agreement, much of what appears on the Internet is the intellectual property of someone else, and to copy, take, steal, repurpose, or represent that property without crediting the original source is, at its core, copyright infringement and the owners of that IP are entitled to a patent lawsuit or similar litigation to protect themselves and their work from unauthorized use.

All these factors lead to an environment ripe for copyright infringement so it’s increasingly important to understand how you can use images on the Internet in a way that will help you avoid being on the other end of a lawsuit because of a mistake you could have avoided.

Make Your Own

It may seem crazy, but if you have the means to make your own images, do so! It’s easy to avoid copyright infringement when you are the owner of the IP. It doesn’t necessarily need to go as for as actually copyrighting the images you create for your own use, though doing so would help prevent someone else from using those images. Certainly, web designers must be creative and time doesn’t always allow for this level of design,

 When in Doubt, Ask Permission

Photos that have a watermark saying where they came from are a key indicator that you need permission to ask, but what about photos on a professional website that have no credit? If you don’t know whether it’s okay to use or not, ask someone – anyone! – on the site in question. It could be the webmaster or a customer service representative, as long as you get a concrete ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.

Some people get these types of requests so frequently that they don’t answer them, so if you do draft an e-mail asking for permission, make sure you are clear in your terms.

If you have a website with original images or photography, you can prevent your own media from being taken for granted by taking the time to draft a page stating rules of use. If you are open to letting others use your photos, make your contact information available to those who might ask – the more approachable you are about the subject, the less-likely people are to steal from you.

Acquaint Yourself With Terms of Agreement

Image Credit

Most of the photos you post on Facebook are public if you choose to make them that way. If you want to protect your image make sure that it is visible only to people you trust. The actual interface of Facebook photo sharing is evolving in such a way that it is less easy to right-click a photo away from its owner. The viewing window you’re taken to now generally disables this age-old function. This makes it more difficult to steal, but does not prevent it altogether; the savvy user can still take screen shots and crop them down to a desired dimension.


Patent law is not just limited to use of images & videos but also on content of web pages & application created by developers. So whenever you need to use images or content for different source then including their reference in your article is must thing to do.

Guest Post by Henry

Southern transplant in seattle. altruist interested in technology, sailing, sports, business. can cook a mean risotto, tie 17 types of knots, & do your taxes.

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