Protect Yourself from Web Design Copyright Infringement Claims

May 18, 2018

Sometimes, the perfect design or the ideal tag line just pops into your head. It may be because you suddenly understand exactly what the client is looking for. Or, it may be that you’ve seen something similar before that stayed in your subconscious. Coming up with a design that’s similar to someone else’s may be completely coincidental, but you could still find yourself on the wrong end of a copyright infringement claim.

Web designers provide a valuable service to their clients by creating unique website designs that reinforce the client’s branding. With all the website templates available, your clients pay you to make sure their website stands out from the rest. They’re looking for something  unique that customers will associate with their brand. But they may have a vision in their mind of what they want, and it could be close to someone else’s design, even if they’re not aware of it.

If you design a website that another company determines is based on their copyrighted logo or design, you could be subject to penalties or legal claims. It’s important to protect yourself, even if you didn’t intentionally copy another design.

How Copyright Infringement Can Happen

Many web designers have found themselves in a situation similar to this: A client comes to you for a new website, and they want a new logo to go with it. They describe their vision, and you think you have a pretty good idea of what they’re trying to convey. You come back to them with a mockup which they like, but they have a few suggestions. You go back and forth a few times, and finally decide on a design everyone is happy with.

Several months after the new site is launched, your clients gets a letter from a big corporation in another city. They say that the website you designed infringes upon their copyrighted logo. The letter indicates they will sue for damages. Your client calls you in a panic, saying that you are responsible for the design, therefore the infringement claim is your responsibility.

Understanding Copyright Infringement Laws and Penalties

As a web designer, you should familiarize yourself with copyright laws in order to avoid a claim of copyright infringement. Copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, rendered, displayed, performed or distributed without the permission of the copyright holder. When it comes to online content, it applies to videos, music, graphics, and written content. A web designer can be exposed to a copyright infringement claim for any of these types of content.
If the owner of the copyright can show proof of infringement, the violator may have to pay a penalty for each violation. The penalties themselves can be a burden for a web designer, but the fees for attorneys you could incur may be even greater. There are also costs associated with the time you’ll need to take away from your business  and damage to your reputation.

What Types of Insurance Should a Design Professional Have?

A professional liability insurance policy, also called errors and omissions or E&O coverage, can protect you from a copyright infringement lawsuit. You could be covered for legal fees, court costs and damages, up to the limit of the policy. A professional liability can also cover you for

● Alleged or actual negligence
● Personal injury costs
● Temporary staffing

Web designers may also consider carrying general liability insurance, which covers claims of bodily injury or property damage by a third party. A business owners policy combines general liability with coverage for your business property, including computer equipment, and intellectual property. Whether you have an office or work from home, these policies provide important coverage that can protect the business you’ve worked so hard to build.

Hiscox: Insurance for Website Design Professionals

Hiscox offers professional liability insurance for web designers with worldwide coverage for online businesses. Reach out to Hiscox to get more information or obtain one or more of the insurance policies specifically designed for business owners to give you peace of mind.