How to use the copyright symbol and create a copyright notice for your website

    12 Dec 2018   |      Paul Higgins
How to use the copyright symbol and create a copyright notice for your website

It seems we're all doing it wrong!

It's hardly exhaustive but I've checked the big banks and the miners. I've visited the websites of software giants and angel funded start-ups. I've the checked global and regional businesses and I've searched across three continents.

Why? To try and get to the bottom of this copyright conundrum!

Copyright basics

Copyright protection is automatic upon the creation of a work.

Copyright protection gives authors exclusive use of their work.

The purpose of the copyright notice

Although you don’t need to include a copyright symbol when you publish online, it’s always a good idea to do so to remind others that copyright exists in your work.

Lousy advice!

Admittedly, I had always advised that the year in a copyright notice should be updated to the current year and perhaps this is why things are a bit skewed?

A question of trust

You see, in the absence of a date stamp on a blog article, I regarded the date I saw in the copyright notice as an indicator of the newness of the content I was reading. I treated it as a trust factor. In fact, if the date in the copyright notice wasn't the current year, I would wonder if the business was still operational?

What a copyright notice should contain

The copyright notice should contain THREE pieces of information

  • copyright word and symbol
  • date
  • owner

I was wrong!

The date in the copyright notice means the same thing as it does for books; it indicates the original date it was published. Importantly, it does not change from year to year.

The general rule is that the year to include in a copyright notice is the year of first publication of the work.
Source: Copyrightlaws.com

The special rule for websites

For constantly evolving websites and blogs that contain works published over several years, the notice may include a range of years (e.g., 2009–2018), starting from the date of the oldest published elements and ending with the date of the newest published elements.
Source: Copyrightlaws.com

The recommended copyright notice structure for websites

parts of the copyright notice

NOTE: The date and owner information can swap positions, e.g. Copyright © Higgeldy Piggeldy 2010-2018

Key messages

In my opinion I think this approach sends two key messages to the website visitor.

The first date demonstrates business longevity and the second date demonstrates continued operations. Valuable trust factors, don't you think?

Not the most common approach

Unfortunately, what my research revealed was that the vast majority of website owners don't follow the recommended structure.

Commonly, I found a single date approach and that date was more often than not, the current year. See these examples from Apple and BHP. So this may lead you to say, well, if it's good enough for these business giants, then it's good enough for me.

Conclusion

All I can say is this. I imagine these firms received sound legal advice. Unless you've received legal advice, I would recommend following the recognised structure. Especially considering how those dates can be positively interpreted by a prospective customer.

Who does this cover?

This information is applicable for organisations in the U.S.A., Canada, U.K. and Australia, being members of the Berne Treaty. However, there isn't a common international copyright law.

Disclaimer

Although I've done my research and the advice in this article is our recommendation to our clients, I am not a lawyer.

Sources for this article

Article: The International Copyright Symbol (Nov 2018)

Paper: An Introduction to Copyright in Australia (Jan 2017)

Using copyright notices (Jun 2016)

Article: Copyright Notice: Is the year really necessary? (Jan 2007)

Discussion thread on Quora.com: If you update a site, does the copyright year change? (May 2017)

Iñaki del Olmo

Paul Higgins
Business owner, Graphic designer, Web developer, Brand and marketing strategist, Adobe Creative Cloud wizard, Business Catalyst Premium Partner, Adobe Community Professional, Passionate Liverpool FC supporter, Muse Advisory Board Member, Semi-retired (tried and failed at least 17 times) Futsal player for Dribblers FC and Toothless Tigers, BC Sandpile activist, Liverpool International Academy and Burwood FC coach, can juggle and do over 1,000 keepie-ups (just not at the same time - come on!)
 

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