The creator of any original work fixed in a tangible medium (i.e., a work that physically or digitally exists somewhere, as opposed to being simply an idea) automatically owns a copyright to that work simply by virtue of being its creator-but in order to prove that ownership in a court of law, the work must be registered with the US Copyright Office. But what about that little circled “c”? What does it really mean-and what happens if you don’t use it?
When Should I Use the Copyright Symbol?
To answer this we have to go back about a century, back to the Copyright Act of 1909. This Act addressed, among other important issues, the role of the copyright symbol-specifically by governing, at the federal level, protection only for those eligible published works that contain a copyright notice. Then, the Copyright Act of 1976 was enacted. Under this new version of the law, the notice is no longer required to receive protection under the law.
That said, it’s a good idea to include a (c) symbol regardless. Even though it isn’t legally necessary, it may just be the factor that deters a would-be copyright infringer from stealing your work – if there’s a symbol present, your infringer is going to have a hard time claiming that he or she wasn’t aware the work was protected. Additionally, the copyright symbol can go a long way in lending an extra bit of credibility to your work; it says to the public that you’re serious about your work, serious enough to register a copyright.
How Should My Copyright Notice Look?
Should you wish to include a copyright notice, it should follow the below format:
Copyright (c) 2011 [Owner’s name]. All rights reserved.
If you’re typing the copyright symbol into a literary work, it’s easy – most word processors automatically convert “(c)” into the correct symbol. You can also find it in your character palette.
Sarah Kolb, http://www.clickandcopyright.com
Since 2000, Click Industries, Ltd. has helped thousands of small business owners, independent entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, and writers start new businesses, protect their intellectual property and find new ways to market and promote their business and creative works. Our copyrighting division, Click and Copyright, offers copyright filing services for creative professionals.
Copyright Law details available from the US Copyright Office.