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In today’s world of online shopping for goods and services, content creation is an essential part of any marketing and brand creation strategy. 

Given the enormity of online media and the amount of fresh content created every hour of every day, protecting the content you place on your website, social media, and other platforms is becoming more challenging. 

In this article, we look at the options for protecting online content, including digital rights management.

What is content protection?

Most businesses spend a good proportion of their marketing budget on producing quality content, social media posts, podcasts, videos and other forms of rich media.

Every piece of content your organisation produces will be used by those who engage with it to learn about and ultimately identify your brand. Therefore, protecting your content from being duplicated and used on another platform is essential. 

For example, if a blog post your business creates ends up in part or in whole on the website of a company that sells controversial products, it could damage your brand's reputation and tarnish how certain people view your business.

Why is it getting harder to protect content?

It’s estimated that there were at least 4.66 billion web pages online as of mid-March 2016, and that is just on the searchable Web, and millions (if not billions) more pages are contained in the Dark Web. 

Therefore, even the most sophisticated SEO tools cannot capture every instance of content duplication. 

To add fuel to the fire, OpenAI, the developers of ChatGPT, the new language model that everyone seems to be talking about, has just raised a new set of questions concerning protecting online content through copyright law

How does copyright protect content creators?

Copyright protects the expression of an idea rather than the concept itself. Under the Copyright Design and Patents Act 1988, the following are protected by copyright:

  • Original artistic, literary, dramatic, or musical creations, which, in the case of the latter, are recorded (for example, published on a website)
  • Sound recordings, films, or broadcasts
  • The typographical arrangements of published editions

Copyright does apply to online content, and in the UK, computer programmes also enjoy protection as literary works.

Is website content protected under the Copyright and Rights in Databases Regulations 1997?

A database which does not satisfy the test to be protected by copyright may still be protected by the sui generis (Latin for ‘in a class of its own’ or unique) database rights created by the Database Directive (96/9/EC) (Database Directive) (implemented in the UK by the Copyright and Rights in Databases Regulations 1997 (Database Regulations)). 

The protections provided under the Database Regulations often apply to what is known as ‘scraping’, which involves a machine searching websites for particular data such as customer names and product prices and extracting the information to republish it on the scraper’s website or use it for analysis purposes.

A website itself may constitute a protected database; therefore, an owner may have protection rights under the Database Regulations and copyright law. 

Everything will depend on the facts of the case, but a legal advisor will consider your rights under both possibilities.

What is digital rights management?

One way to take control in terms of protecting your online content is to invest in digital rights management (DRM). 

DRM software provides authors, musicians, software developers, and other content creators the ability to regulate the capacity of others to use their content by making it impossible for potential infringers to access it. 

For example, Apple’s iTunes store uses DRM systems to restrict how many digital devices customers can use to listen to music. Another example of DRM technology is Microsoft’s requirement that users enter a product key before installing its products.

How does digital rights management work?

No business can monitor the entire internet for instances of copyright infringement. 

DRM works by enabling forms of data protection and data governance. In basic form, it works as follows:

  • As part of the packaging process, original content is encrypted and can only be unlocked with an encryption key
  • The key is included with a digital license that sets out the terms and conditions attached to the usage of the content
  • The DRM client checks their license when a user wishes to view or use the content
  • If the user’s licence is deemed valid, they will receive an encryption key (which usually comprises a list of letters and numbers)
  • Once the user enters the key, the receiving device is informed that the content can be decrypted

To future-proof your intellectual property strategy and, in turn, protect your brand, understanding the way DRM can work to safeguard your online content should form an essential part of your organisation’s overall risk management strategy. 

Get legal assistance from LawBite

Copyright and content ownership in todays digital world is only growing in complexity. Our expert team of lawyers can help you establish what IP protection you can implement and also assisst with any disputes that may arise from copyright infringement.

If you need help protecting your online content, book a free 15 minute consultation with one of our expert Intellectual Property lawyers or call us on  020 3808 8314


Additional resources

In closing

Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice on which you should rely. The article is provided for general information purposes only. Professional legal advice should always be sought before taking any action relating to or relying on the content of this article. Our Platform Terms of Use apply to this article.

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