A website is a key component to any business. From marketing to selling products online, a website can significantly help sales. A website may also be essential to establishing a business’s identity and how it is perceived by the market. But what happens if someone is copying or stealing content from your website? Is there legal protection?
One form of protection could be the law of copyright. The issue has been brought up in B.C. courts before and case law indicates that websites are capable of copyright protection.
For instance, in BCAA et al. v. Office and Professional Employees’ Int. Union et al., 2001 BCSC 156 (CanLII), the plaintiff, British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA), claimed that the defendant had copied the BCAA website by including certain design elements and logos. The court held that the BCAA website was an original artistic work and BCAA was entitled to copyright protection. The defendant had substantially copied the BCAA website and thus infringed BCAA’s copyright. BCAA was awarded damages in result.
In Century 21 Canada Limited Partnership v. Rogers Communications Inc., 2011 BCSC 1196 (CanLII), the plaintiff (Century 21) had a real estate website featuring property listings and the defendant (Zoocasa) operated a website that allowed consumers to assess property listings by neighbourhood. The court held that Zoocasa had copied and indexed substantial portions of Century 21’s websites including pictures and text. This was an infringement of copyright. The court awarded Century 21 damages and granted an injunction restraining Zoocasa from continuing further infringement.
More recently, in Animal Welfare International Inc. v. W3 International Media Ltd., 2014 BCSC 1839 (CanLII), the plaintiff (Animal Welfare) was a pet supply company that had a retail website to sell its products. The court held that Animal Welfare was entitled to copyright protection for its website and that the defendant substantially reproduced Animal Welfare’s website without consent. As such, there was an infringement of copyright. The court, in this case, also awarded damages to Animal Welfare.
There are remedies available against website copycats. If copyright infringement is established, such remedies include an injunction preventing further infringement and/or damages.
If you are facing a related issue, contact one of our Dispute Resolution lawyers.