To include the notice, or not to include the notice? A common point of confusion for copyright creators is whether they need to include the copyright notice with their work for copyright protection.
The good news for most creators is you do not need to include a copyright notice with your work to have copyright protection; and by 'protection' we mean the rights to produce, reproduce and perform your work.
In general, copyright protection is granted automatically upon the completion of your work in a fixed form. Having said this, there is some fine print one should be aware of, especially for works created in the United States.
Short History of the Copyright Notice:
Under the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, which concluded in 1886, copyright protection is automatically granted for original works expressed in a fixed form (for example, a format that can be perceived, communicated and reproduced such as on paper, memory key, compact disc, etc.). There are over 100 countries who are signatories of the Berne Convention, all of which are listed on the World Intellectual Property Office's website. In addition, countries that are a part of the World Trade Organization have to adhere to almost all of the conditions of the Berne Convention.
The beauty of the convention is it harmonizes and sets minimum standards of copyright laws between the member countries. This has greatly reduced the risk for copyright creators when publishing their works internationally, as they will receive similar protection abroad as they would in their own country.
When copyright protection is automatic, as it is for all Berne Convention countries, you are not required to use the copyright notice to protect your work.
Now, the tricky part is for U.S citizens. The United States only joined the Berne Convention on March 1st 1981, which means any works published before this date may still require the copyright notice to protect copyright, unlike works published after March 1st 1989.
Although the Copyright Notice is Not Required, here are 6 Reasons it Can Increase Protection of Copyright:
1. The copyright notice tells the public that the work is protected by copyright law. Without the notice, someone interested in using the work might mistakenly think it is available for use without permission.
2. It helps identify the copyright owner which is handy if anyone needs to contact them regarding the work.
3. It provides the year of publication which can be important in determining the duration of copyright.
4. A copyright notice makes it much harder for an infringer to claim that they did not know the work was copyrighted. If the notice is not present, an infringer could use this reasoning in court and potentially be acquitted of the charges.
5. The notice might act as a deterrent for someone to infringe on the work. If a person knows the work is protected, they might be less likely to use it.
6. It's easier for someone to make contact to obtain permission to use your work when a copyright notice is present.
As you can see, even though having the copyright notice is not required, it's definitely a good idea to help protect copyright.
The above information is meant as a general guide to further your copyright knowledge and does not constitute legal advice. For questions about your specific work, you should consult a copyright lawyer in your country.
Justine Shoolman is a Founder of Copyright Creators (CC), a service inspired by the shortfalls of poor man's copyright. CC protects copyright for life with no membership fees. Visit CC today to receive 4 free registrations.