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Let's say that I decide to create a website template that users can download for free or purchase a license. The free version includes a footer on the sidebar that includes something like:

© Copyright Someone

Template made by https://www.example.com

A user sees this template and decides to download the free version. Then, when he opens the files to edit it in a text editor, he notices the copyright notice on the footer. He also sees a comment in the HTML file (that is not visible when the file is viewed in the browser) that says something similar to:

These links must stay here. Only remove them if you purchased a license.

Now, it's safe to assume that if I registered the copyright and did all the paperwork, I could take legal action on that user if he removed that copyright notice. But, if they just hide the footer while still keeping it in the code, could I still take legal action?

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  • Is there a license notice in the file or the download? Typically there is...
    – Ron Beyer
    Nov 19 '20 at 5:32
  • @RonBeyer There's a license notice in the download in a file named README.txt. Nov 19 '20 at 13:25
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You seem to assume that copyrights require paperwork such as registration. This is wrong, copyright is automatic. And it prevents the downloader from making the sort of change that you suggest. In fact, it prevents the downloader from using your template at all.

The only reason the downloader can use that template is because you've granted him a specific license to ignore some copyright rules, but the default remains. And you did not grant the right to alter the template to free users.

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