When and Where to Use a Copyright Notice

When and Where to Use a Copyright Notice

by Crystal Everson, J.D., April 2019

When you create an original work, it is automatically protected under copyright law. However, if you ever wish to bring a copyright infringement case before the court, you need to ensure that you have registered your copyright. Whether or not your work is registered, you should make it a point to use a copyright notice on all of your work to protect your rights.

When to Use a Copyright Notice

A copyright notice is a voluntary statement placed on your work to inform the public that you own the work and that it is protected by copyright law. A copyright notice serves to:

  • Give notice to potential infringers
  • Act as evidence of willful infringement
  • Provide information about the author for licensing requests

A copyright notice does not actually protect your work—the mere act of creating it does that. Instead, it acts as way to hang out your shingle and let the world know that your work exists, that you own it, and permission must be granted if someone wishes to use it.

A copyright notice is optional for unpublished works, foreign works, and works published after March 1, 1989, when the United States signed on to the Berne Convention. Even though you are no longer required to use the copyright notice on published works, you should, because it adds an extra layer of protection.

Format and Placement of a Copyright Notice

A copyright notice is so simple and straightforward that you can create one within minutes. There are four essential parts to a standard copyright notice:

  1. The copyright symbol or word. You have a few choices: the copyright symbol (©), the word “copyright," or the abbreviation “Copr."
  1. The publication year. The first time that the work is published or made public should be listed. Doing so also helps determine how long the copyright protection will last.
  2. The author's or business's name. This makes it easy to determine who needs to be contacted to ask for permission to use the work.
  3. The statement of rights. This can be as simple as saying “All rights reserved," which means that you do not allow anyone to use your work without your permission. You can also state “No rights reserved," which indicates that you are okay with others using your work.

When you put all four parts together, you get a copyright notice that looks like this: © 2019 ABC Corporation.

Place the copyright notice where people can easily see it, such as in the footer of your website. Copyright notices on a website or blog should use a date range like © 2018-2019 ABC Corporation to ensure that all of the content on the site is protected. If the copyrighted work is tangible, place the notice on the outside or somewhere highly visible. Digital works should include the notice on the terms and agreements page.

A copyright notice is entirely optional, but you would be doing yourself a disservice if you don't use it, particularly because it's so simple to do so and the benefits are significant. Registering your copyright adds an extra layer of protection should someone commit infringement.