Web design

Website Copyright Law Questions Answered

South African copyright of websites and website design

Copyright considerations during the creation of website content.

Copyright is an important consideration during the creation of a new website. Although it may be tempting to copy content from another website wholesale, it is definitely not advised. Having your own content stolen is also not fun either. That’s where South African copyright law comes in as it lends some protection to both copyright owners and content users.

Here are the top four questions about South African copyright relevant to websites answered.

1. Is the content on my South African website copyright protected?

Any content you created and published on your site is protected by copyright. It is not necessary for any work to be formally registered somewhere for it to be eligible to be protected under South African copyright law. The moment that an idea is transformed into something tangible such as a photo, illustration, or written work, it immediately enjoys protection against copying without permission and the required citation. It is possible for website owners to act against perpetrators under copyright law.

2. Can I use the content from other websites on my site?

As any original content of a website is copyright protected, you may not use their materials without express permission, or appropriate citation. You may freely use material that have entered the public domain or are expressly licensed for open use. Any copyrighted work that you have substantially transformed also becomes a new work of which you are the copyright owner. However, apart from the legal aspects, having unoriginal content copied verbatim from other sites could also penalise you on search engine rankings. If you have original and relevant content, you are much more likely to feature higher in the search engine rankings. Some original graphical peacocking will also up your visibility in the online world.

3. What are the requirements for copyright protection on websites?

Under South African law, any original work created by a qualified person is eligible for copyright protection. Originality is judged on the basis of the work being created through the application of the author’s own labour and creativity. A qualified person is a national or resident of South Africa or a Berne Convention country. If you find other sites that have ripped off your content, there are steps that you can take.

4. When is copying from a website copyright infringement?

Copying something from public domain material, or public speeches, does NOT constitute infringement. Neither do works where the original work is acknowledged when one is partially copying or citing from another author’s work. Copying substantial portions or not citing the original source could still land you in hot water.

Rather use original artwork and written copy specific to your business. Not only will you own the copyright yourself, but having bespoke artwork and text unique to your specific business will help your website stand out in the busy online world. This should result in greater emotional engagement from your visitors and hopefully also ensure more traffic to your website. Original and relevant copy will also help propel your website up the search engine rankings.  Let Clickalytic help you create SEO friendly content to send you zooming up the website search result rankings.


These answers do not constitute legal advice and if you are unsure, rather approach an attorney specialising in copyright matters.  Be prepared for a serious knock to your cheque book though, as copyright attorneys make up for the boredom of their work by charging stiff fees.