What is a Copyright Notice?

J.L. Drede

A copyright notice is either a phrase or a symbol that proclaims ownership of a copyright, and therefore the ownership of a published work. Copyright typically applies to forms of expression and works of art, such as film, music and literature. Copyright also applies to less-creative works, such as computer programs and architectural plans. Not all creations are eligible for copyright, however. Abstract ideas, different kinds of titles and names, and common property with no original authorship are examples of works that cannot carry a copyright notice. These works may be protected by trademarks and patents, but not copyrights.

The copyright symbol, which consists of a circled letter "C", indicates that a work has been copyrighted and is not in the public domain.
The copyright symbol, which consists of a circled letter "C", indicates that a work has been copyrighted and is not in the public domain.

Different countries have different rules involving copyright notices. In most countries, a copyright notice must feature a copyright symbol. In the United States (U.S.), notices of copyright may also use the full word "copyright" or an abbreviated "Copr." Many other country's copyright notices use a (c) or © symbol. Copyright notices also typically contain the year that the work was first published and the name of the individual or corporation who owns the copyright. U.S. copyright law also states that the copyright notice must be in plain sight so anyone can see it. Most countries honor the copyrights and copyright laws of other countries.

In most countries, copyright is automatic and does not need to be registered with the government. The second a work is created it is copyrighted and a copyright notice can be put on it. A copyright may be owned by the work's creator, but ownership may also fall on a company or corporation who bought the created work. The owner of a copyright normally has exclusive rights perform, reproduce, sell or display the work. Others may do so, but they typically must get permission from the holder of the copyright and they usually have to pay a fee. Not doing so is commonly considered copyright infringement, and is against the law in most places.

If a person violates a copyright, they may get a notice of claim of copyright infringement. These notices state what copyright a person has violated, who owns the copyright in question and may also detail what legal action could follow. A notice of copyright infringement may be given out to a musician who sampled copyrighted work without permission or to a website that is illegally hosting copyrighted material, for instance. Legal copyright notices are also frequently sent out to individuals who download copyrighted material without permission. These notices are often from Internet service providers who monitor internet traffic looking for copyright violations. Many times these notices are simply warnings, but they can also lead to serious legal action and lawsuits.

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