U.S. law no longer requires the use of a copyright notice. However, prior law did contain such a requirement, and the use of a notice is still relevant to the copyright status of older works.
Works published before January 1, 1978, are governed by the previous copyright law. Under that law, if a work was published under the copyright owner’s authority without a proper notice of copyright, all copyright protection for that work was permanently lost in the United States.
The Benefits of a Copyright Notice
Although a copyright notice is not required, it is certainly beneficial. A copyright notice informs the public that a work is protected by copyright, identifies the copyright owner, and shows the year of first publication.
More importantly, in the event that a work is infringed, if a copyright notice was used, the court will not give any weight to a defendant’s claim that he or she did not realize that the work was protected (referred to as an innocent infringement defense).
How to Create a Copyright Notice
In general, in order to be valid, a copyright notice should contain:
- The symbol © (letter C in a circle); the word “Copyright”; or the abbreviation “Copr.”
- The date of publication, and
- The name of either the author or the owner of all the copyright rights in the published work.
Example: © 2011 Jane Doe
How I Can Help
Of course, this post provides only a broad overview of copyright notices. If you are seeking to copyright a work, it is advisable to consult with an experienced intellectual property attorney.