Copyright Fundamentals - The Copyright Notice

The Notice

It used to be that in order to be afforded any copyright protection, one needed to put the world on notice by attaching a copyright notice to the work. While this is no longer the case, it is still customary to attach a copyright notice on copyrighted works in order to be eligible for certain types of damages. In the copyright notice below, notice the four elements that include the copyright symbol, the term "Copyright", the year of copyright, the name of the copyright holder, and the phrase "All Rights Reserved".

Click on an element in the copyright notice below.

Copyright © 2001 Benedict O'Mahoney
All Rights Reserved

Copyright Term

The term "Copyright" is technically not required in the copyright notice. However, it should be noted that the term "Copyright" may now be used in lieu of the © Copyright Symbol in the U.S.

Copyright Symbol

The © Copyright Symbol is generally the standard identifier of a Copyright Notice. This symbol is required in many foreign countries in order for copyright protection to attach.

However, in the United States, the term "Copyright" may now be used in lieu of the Copyright Symbol. This makes notification on ASCII documents much easier to accomplish.

It has pointed out that HTML (both 2.0 and 3.0) uses the ISO 8879:1986 "Latin 1" character set by default, which includes the C-in-circle symbol at position 169. In theory you are supposed to be able to use the numeric entity reference © to display the C-in-circle. In practice, however, a number of browsers (especially text-based ones like Lynx, operating via terminals using the IBM PC character set, for example) will not properly display the C-in-circle on screen in response to that entity. Furthermore, HTML 3.0 adds a symbolic © entity, and Netscape (of course) has had its own nonstandard &copr; entity for a while.

Consequently, the recommendation is that any Web copyright notice use BOTH the numeric entity and the full word "Copyright" to avoid as many of these problems as possible.

Year of Publication

Whenever a Copyright Notice is given, it is required that the year of publication be included in the notice.

Name of Copyright Holder

The Copyright Notice must also include the name of the owner of the copyright. The legal owner of the copyright is not necessarily the author or creator of the work. Works created by employees in the course of their employment or independent workers who sign "Work for Hire" agreements are considered to be creating the work on behalf of the employer. Consequently, these works are referred to as "Works for Hire", and the copyright is vested in the person doing the hiring.

As an example, news stories that you receive through a news service such as ClariNet are generally copyrighted by the news provider, whether it be UPI, Reuters or Associated Press. The reporters who actually write the stories are generally working under Work for Hire agreements.

Reservation of Rights

You can thank Bolivia and Honduras for this one. In order to gain copyright protection in these countries, you must follow the requirements of the Buenos Aires Convention. This Convention requires that the reservation of rights phrase be included in the Copyright Notice in order for copyright protection to attach.