What is the Copyright Symbol?
The symbol of a the letter “c” in a circle, ©, is used universally to identify a copyright-protected work and to indicate its copyright owner. The symbol is not required in the leading copyright convention, the Berne Convention (to which 172 countries belong), but remains a requirement in another copyright convention, the Universal Copyright Convention. The information in this article discusses Berne member countries’ use, or non-mandatory use, of a copyright symbol. The U.S., Canada and EU countries are members of Berne.
Should You Use a Copyright Symbol?
By using the copyright symbol, you are reminding those who access, read and share your intellectual property (IP) that copyright exists in your IP. The symbol is usually accompanied by the name of the copyright owner and helps your audience to locate you and obtain permission to use your IP.
You can place a copyright notice on your work without any formalities. For example, you do not need to make any application or registration to use the symbol.
Some people believe that if a work does not bear a copyright symbol, then that work is not protected by copyright law. This is not true. In most circumstances, the use of the copyright symbol is not mandatory.
In Canada, the U.S., European Union countries and in many other countries, the copyright symbol is not mandatory in order for your works to be protected, however there are incentives to use it. In Canada, use of the symbol provides evidence in a court action that the alleged violator should have known that copyright existed in the work. In the U.S., use of the copyright symbol precludes an alleged violator of copyright from submitting that he did not know that copyright existed in a work. In the U.S., works published before March 1, 1989 were subject to different rules and the copyright notice was mandatory, though corrective steps could be taken if it was omitted on a published work.
What Should You Include in Your Copyright Symbol and Notice?
There are three elements you should include in your copyright notice. First, the “c” in a circle, ©, or the abbreviation “Copr.” or the word “copyright” should be present. Second, the name of the copyright owner (not necessarily the author) should be included in the notice. Third, the year of first publication should be set out. An example is:
© Mary Clark 2016 or Copyright © Mary Clark 2016
The year to include in a copyright notice should be 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 distributing free copies of it in a public place, but does not include sending copies of a book to a publisher or circulating copies internally to co-workers. For compilations or derivative works which incorporate previously published content, the year of first publication of the compilation or derivative work is sufficient.
If you have a new version or edition of a work, you should include with your copyright symbol the publication date of the new version or edition. For constantly changing websites and blogs that contain works published over several years, the notice may include a range of years (e.g., 2009-2016), starting from the date of the oldest published elements and ending with the date of the newest published works.
A copyright symbol is not usually used on an unpublished work but may be used, and instead of year of publication, the year could be the year the author distributes the work in some manner. The symbol could indicate this with the following wording: Unpublished work © 2016 Mary Clark.
At least in the U.S., you may omit the copyright notice where a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work, with or without text, is reproduced on greeting cards, postcards, stationery, jewelry, dolls, toys or any useful objects.
In addition to a copyright symbol, you may want to include a “copyright warning” or additional copyright-related information. For example, including your email address for permission to use your works, along with your email address may be helpful, such as:
For requests to use this copyright-protected work in any manner, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call xxx.xxx.xxxx.
More comprehensive copyright warning/information may refer to concepts like fair use and fair dealing, and may mention whether permission is required for non-profit and non-commercial uses of the work. Most print publications and websites have some form of copyright warning/information and in determining what uses are permitted without further permission, read through this information.
Where Should You Place Your Copyright Notice?
You should place your copyright notice in a manner and location where your reader will be able to see it and it will alert the reader that copyright subsists in the work. This can vary depending on the type of work involved. For a website, a good location for the copyright symbol and notice may be on the home page, or on a page that appears by clicking through to a specified copyright or legal notices page, or both. For instance, website owners may include a simple copyright notice on its home page and also on other pages of its website, with a click through to a more detailed copyright and legal notices page. If you are looking for the copyright notice, go to the bottom of the home page on any site and check the listed links for copyright notice or legal disclaimers, etc.
For works published in book form or periodicals, you could place the symbol and notice on the title page, the page immediately following the title page, on either side of the front of back cover, or on the first or last page of the main body of the work. Wherever you choose, be confident that the notice is in a manner and location that is conspicuous and will not be missed by a casual observer.
What is a P in a Circle?
The “p” in a circle is used like the ©, but only with respect to sound recordings. The reasons for marking a work with p in a circle are similar to those for marking a work with ©. The notice should be placed on the label attached to the recording, or on the cover or container accompanying the recording, or on both.