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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
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    Default Can a Company Claim Copyright Over a Screenshot of Their Website?

    Hi, I recently did some work for a large European company, redesigning their website. Although I was paid and the final mockup was accepted, they ultimately decided against the redesign. Because the job was a done deal however, I put a jpg version of the final mockup on my portfolio website, along with a screenshot of their existing website for comparison. It's been there since May. More recently, they decided to simply rejig their existing website so it looks slightly different.

    Today, I recieved an email saying they are not happy that the new mockup - the one they didn't go with - is being displayed. They claim that it is "Confidential and copyrighted". On top of that, they claim that the *screenshot* of their then live website is copyrighted. They would like this removed as well.

    While I'm not happy about it, I realise that perhaps they do have a claim to the unused mockup. However, do they have any sort of copyright claims to a screenshot, regardless of when the screenshot was taken? I mean, if I take a screenshot of Google.com and in a month's time the look of it changes, Google surely would not have any right to claim copyright infringement, just like this company don't either.

    To clarify, I'm asking for advice on two things:

    1) Do they have a claim to the unused mockup?
    2) Do they have a claim to a screenshot of their website, albeit a shot of their old version.

    Many thanks for your help.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
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    Toledo, OH
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    Default Re: Can a Company Claim Copyright Over a Screenshot of Their Website?

    Copyright has nothing to do with whether or not the look of something changes and everything to do with who owns the content in question.

    Presumably the website was done as a work for hire, meaning you retained no copyright. Is this the case?

    If so, did you have permission to display a sample in your online portfolio?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
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    Default Re: Can a Company Claim Copyright Over a Screenshot of Their Website?

    Quote Quoting LawResearcherMissy
    View Post
    Copyright has nothing to do with whether or not the look of something changes and everything to do with who owns the content in question.

    Presumably the website was done as a work for hire, meaning you retained no copyright. Is this the case?

    If so, did you have permission to display a sample in your online portfolio?
    The website was indeed done as a work for hire and there was no permission sought to display the sample because I designed the mockup and the screenshot is literally that - a screenshot of their old website. I didn't think a screenshot was infringement. Are you telling me that I'm infringing on copyright by displaying a screenshot of a site that is fully and publicly accessible? And if so, would that mean that screenshots of any site are actually infringing on copyright?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
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    471

    Default Re: Can a Company Claim Copyright Over a Screenshot of Their Website?

    You might be tripped up by using the word screen-shot, photo is a easier to understand concept. You took a photo of another entities copy written work and displayed it in your commercial portfolio.

    Perhaps you can use it to close leads.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
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    Default Re: Can a Company Claim Copyright Over a Screenshot of Their Website?

    Quote Quoting kist
    View Post
    You might be tripped up by using the word screen-shot, photo is a easier to understand concept. You took a photo of another entities copy written work and displayed it in your commercial portfolio.

    Perhaps you can use it to close leads.
    So, just to confirm, you're saying that if no express permission has been granted, no one can take a screenshot of another website? Or, to use my example, I couldn't take a screenshot of Google.com, for example and upload that screenshot somewhere else? Is that what you're saying? Just so I understand.

  6. #6
    Join Date
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    Toledo, OH
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    Default Re: Can a Company Claim Copyright Over a Screenshot of Their Website?

    Quote Quoting Anagoge
    View Post
    Are you telling me that I'm infringing on copyright by displaying a screenshot of a site that is fully and publicly accessible?
    Yes. The copyright holder gets to decide who may use reproductions of the work, and how - if at all - these reproductions may be displayed or distributed.

    Since you did the job as a work for hire, you MUST, unless your contract states otherwise - obtain written permission from the copyright holder to use any reproduction of that work.

    And if so, would that mean that screenshots of any site are actually infringing on copyright?
    Not always. Some screenshots (and cached pages, such as Google's cache and the Internet Archive) are covered under Fair Use provisions. Others are not - how they are used matters.

    You're using someone else's property for commercial purposes, without their permission. That's not covered under Fair Use.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
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    Default Re: Can a Company Claim Copyright Over a Screenshot of Their Website?

    Thanks for the help. It's appreciated.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Can a Company Claim Copyright Over a Screenshot of Their Website?

    I'm no lawyer, but I know about a lot of websites that offer screenshots of other websites as a service.

    For example:
    http://www.snap.com/ (shows screenshots and profits from it)
    http://www.websnapr.com/ (showing screenshots on their frontpage)

    It's unlikely that these sites ask for permission for each of the millions of websites they thumbnail. They might get away with it under "fair use" since the thumbnail is small enough to not discern details.

    I would link to their site from your screenshot and try to pitch your screenshot as more publicity and traffic for the company... hey it's a free link!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Washington comma the Great State of.
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    1,211

    Default Re: Can a Company Claim Copyright Over a Screenshot of Their Website?

    Just because someone no longer uses something they own to get business doesn't mean their ownership rights have vanished.

    Just because they choose not to use something you designed for them doesn't mean that they suddenly no longer own it.

    That's the downside of doing your line of work: you make things for people and sometimes don't get to use it to your own advantage.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Michigan
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    28,906

    Default Re: Can a Company Claim Copyright Over a Screenshot of Their Website?

    Note that, among other factors to be considered in evaluating a copyright dispute, there's a difference between presenting a full screenshot of someone else's site and presenting a thumbnail.

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