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HTML Help: Copyright Notice

I am currently maintaining a non-profit site and I see many (most?) sites have copyright info on the bottom. I'm wondering...
  1. Is it necessary?
  2. Recommended?
  3. Need to do anything official to place a copyright notice?
  4. How often should it be updated, yearly?
Good questions, all. Before answering, first understand that I'm not an attorney. My answers reflect my understanding of copyright law based on my own research, however, if you want a qualified legal opinion you'll need to contact an attorney familiar with copyright law.

Having said that...

It isn't absolutely necessary to post a copyright notice to have copyright protection. Copyrights are implied by virtue of the content being published, and posting content on a web site is a form of publishing, ergo, all web pages with original content have implied copyright protection.

However, not placing a copyright notice on your pages is an invitation to some people to "borrow" your content for their own purposes because not everyone knows (or cares) about implied copyrights. So, it's best to put a copyright notice in place on each page with content that you want to protect via copyrights.

You don't have to do anything official to place a copyright notice, you can just plop it on your page at your discretion. However, by registering your works with the US Copyright office it will be easier to prove your copyright claim should you need to pursue a copyright infringement lawsuit.

Of course, that does cost a little money. It used to be $35.00 for a basic electronic filing, or $45.00 for a basic paper filing—I don't know what the current rates are.

As a general rule, copyright protection lasts for the lifetime of the author plus 70 years on works created on or after January 1, 1978. There are exceptions, so if you have intellectual property that is critical, I highly recommend consulting a copyright attorney.

As for as updating your copyright notice, many web sites do update their notice every year, but it's not necessary and it's probably not legitimate most of the time. To legitimately make a new copyright claim you have to make "substantial and creative" changes in the work.

You can learn a lot more about copyrights by visiting the US Copyright Office web site and perusing their excellent FAQ page.

This concludes the

HTML Help about Copyright Notices

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