Copyright Notice Year

Year to Use in Your Copyright Notice

This post explains the year to include when using the international copyright symbol on your content. Although the copyright symbol is not mandatory in many countries, using the symbol has advantages such as informing others that copyright exists in your copyright materials.

Using the Copyright Symbol

online copyright coursesFor all new content you create and publish this year, your copyright notice should include 2017 as the year of first publication. The notice looks like this:

© Jane Doe 2017

 Year in Your Copyright Notice

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., 2009-2013), starting from the date of the oldest published elements and ending with the date of the newest published elements.

A Copyright Notice is Educational

Keep in mind that a copyright notice is not mandatory in the U.S. or Canada or in most countries. Its purpose is to educate others or to remind others that copyright exists in your work and to respect that copyright. Including a copyright notice on your website or blog may help diminish the myth that all online content is free.

Questions About Copyright Notices

Question: If I wrote a book starting in 2011, finished in 2012, and published it in 2013, what year do I include in my copyright notice?

Answer: Use the date of first publication which in this case is 2013.

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 2012-2017.

This post focusses on the year to use in your copyright notice. For more comprehensive information on the international copyright symbol, click here.

For an overview of the fundamentals of copyright law, click here.

Click to learn about copyright law and our Copyright Leadership Certificate program


  1. Editor says:

    Great question, Peter. I consulted Patrick Hogan, Senior Editor, ALA Editions, who replies: “If the book is physically available late in the year, publishers will often use the forward year as a “publication date,” which the copyright notice date should match. I think the rationale is that the publisher’s actual announcement, marketing and promotion of the book would come in the following year, allowing books to move through the distribution system and get into stores. In practice, it’s a marketing-driven practice, giving a book published late in the year a fresher look.”

  2. Peter says:

    Hi, I’ve seen copyright dates in new books that are next year, ie, not the current year when the work was actually published and made available, but the following year, a future date. What is the reasoning for this?

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