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How do I write a copyright notice?

UPDATED: February 20, 2013

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A copyright notice is your way of reminding readers that the information they are reading belongs exclusively to you. Copyright notices are not required under modern copyright law, but they are useful for communicating your intent as the author.

When Is a Copyright Notice Necessary?

Under modern law, copyright is automatically given at the time of publishing. This means that copyright notices in general are never necessary or required. However, copyright notices can provide useful information to those reading your publication.

Are Copyright Notices Beneficial?

Copyright notices are very beneficial and serve two distinct purposes. First, a copyright notice gives readers a warning that the information may not be copied because it is your property. This warning can serve as evidence in court against someone who copies your work without your permission, and claims (falsely) that they did not realize the information was copyrighted. This defense is known as “innocent infringement.”

The second purpose copyright notices serve is to communicate when your content may be used and provide contact information for those seeking permission. This is especially useful for those publishing online, as you can require those re-posting your information to also include a link to your website.

The Correct Way to Write a Copyright Notice

Copyright notices have four distinct parts. First, use the copyright symbol. This symbol is available as a special character in word processing programs, or can be copied and pasted from here: ©.

Next, list the year that your copyrighted work was published. For example, if you updated an article on your website today, list today’s date. If you have a blog or newsletter with multiple entries or constant updates, you can also create a notice that spans the entire date of publication. Begin with the first year of publication, add a dash and then list the most recent date of publication. For instance, 2006-2010.

The third piece to include is the name attributed for copyright purposes. This can be your name, the website's name, or the name of a third party who purchased the copyright privilege from you. The third example applies if you are working for a company and writing content specifically for them at their request.

The fourth and last piece is notice instructions for reproduction. This can be as simple as stating, “for re-posting permission, please email Joe Shmoe at” Alternatively, notice instructions can list the reproduction purposes that do not require permission. This approach is commonly used for websites producing content such as coloring pages for children.

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