When it comes to web design, copyright protects the actual code you have written for the website along with your content, such as text or images.
The code and content may belong to you, however other web designers can use it to “inspire” their own websites. This means, unfortunately, anyone can use your design, combine it with original ideas and create their own site.
You spend a countless number of hours designing and coding an innovative and engaging web design that makes you proud. The next thing you know, you’re surfing the web and you see someone else using your website design as their own. Can they do this?
If you feel that a website has been created with an identical design, you may have a case against them, but it gets tricky. To begin with, you will have to prove they copied your code exactly. Even when Facebook went after a German website, StudiVZ, for copying their design, they failed in the courtroom.
If you would like to take steps against another website you should first send them notice that they are copying your design – they may be doing so unknowingly. Depending on how that goes, get a copy of a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) take down form and send it to the website’s host.
During the whole process make sure you are documenting everything, as this will help you going forward legally.
Good luck and happy designing.