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HTML Code Receives Copyright Protection

An example of simple HTML codeHTML (HyperText Markup Language) is the standard markup language that is used to create web pages. In a recent decision, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California determined that HTML code may receive copyright protection.

The case is Advertising FZ-LLC v. Netseer, Inc. Plaintiff alleged, among other causes of action, copyright infringement.

Defendant Argues Code not Copyrightable

Defendant Netseer argued that plaintiff’s HTML code consisted solely of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), thus the HTML code was not copyrightable subject matter.

The court disagreed. In its decision, the court gave significant weight to analyses set forth in the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, Third Edition .

Court Finds HTML Code is More than CSS

In finding that plaintiff’s HTML code was copyrightable, the court noted the following.

  • CSS (which HTML code imports) merely control how content is displayed – they do not, themselves, contain copyrightable content.
  • However, plaintiff’s code includes classes, which provide the developer an opportunity to express creativity.
  • Furthermore, the code includes comments, which are notations or thoughts that other may use when reviewing the code.

Once the court concluded that plaintiff’s HTML code was copyrightable, it concluded that plaintiff’s copyright registrations were valid.

Graphic credit: Wikimedia Commons

Dana H. Shultz, Attorney at Law +1 510-547-0545 dana [at] danashultz [dot] com
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