This article explains the copyright notice year or year to include when using the international copyright symbol on your content. Using the copyright symbol has advantages such as informing others that copyright exists in your copyright materials. Subscribe for free to our weekly copyright email.
Using the Copyright Symbol
For all new content you create and publish in 2018, your copyright notice should include (at least) 2018 as the year of first publication. The notice looks like this:
© Jane Doe 2018
Which Copyright Notice Year Should You Use?
The general rule is that the year to include in a copyright notice is the year of first publication of the work. First publication is when the work is made available to the public without restriction. This includes selling a book or leaving free copies of it in a public place or posting content on your blog. Publication does not include, for example, circulating copies internally to co-workers.
For compilations or derivative works which incorporate previously published content, use the year of first publication of the compilation or derivative work.
New versions or editions of works should contain the publication date of the new version or edition. For constantly evolving websites and blogs that contain works published over several years, the notice may include a range of years (e.g., 2009–2018), starting from the date of the oldest published elements and ending with the date of the newest published elements.
A Copyright Notice Is Educational
A copyright notice is not mandatory in most countries. It is not mandatory in the U.S. or in Canada. Specifically, it’s not required in Berne Copyright Treaty countries. In these countries, use of the copyright notice and symbol is still useful and is a good idea. In these situations, the purpose of the copyright notice is to educate others or to remind others that copyright exists in your work and to respect that copyright.
Some mistakenly think that the lack of a copyright notice means that the work is in the public domain or free to use without obtaining permission from the copyright holder.
Q&As About Copyright Notices
Question: If I wrote a book starting in 2011, finished in 2012, and published it in 2018, what is the proper copyright notice year?
Answer: Use the date of first publication, which in this case is 2018.
Question: Do you change the years stated on your blog and website?
Answer: Use the earliest date of publication. For example, if you first published on your blog in 2012, when you amend the blog content or add to it, continue to use the 2012 date or use a range of dates such as 2012–2018.
If you like this article, you may like the article Copyright Law 101 or Copyright Q&As: Copyright Management and Compliance.
If international copyright law intrigues you, learn about legal implications whenever your use of copyright materials — your own or third-party content — extends beyond your country’s borders. Avoid international copyright violations by understanding how the system of international copyright works on a practical level in the Practical International Copyright Law eTutorial.