What Is a Copyright Statement?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A copyright statement is a legal notice providing information about the applicable copyrights for a piece of creative work. While such statements are not legally required in most regions because work like poems, photographs, and novels is automatically copyrighted from the time of its creation, having a copyright statement can eliminate confusion. In the event that it becomes necessary to prosecute copyright violations, the presence of the statement can serve as a rebuttal to arguments that the accused wasn't aware of the copyright or didn't know how to request permission to use a work.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Typically, a copyright statement includes several components: the date, the creator, and a statement to the effect that the work is protected by copyright laws. An example can be seen at the bottom of this page, noting with the copyright symbol, ©, and a span of dates that this article is copyright conjecture corporation. Some copyright statements may include the additional language “all rights reserved,” although this is not explicitly necessary, as it is assumed that all rights are reserved by the creator or copyright holder unless stated otherwise. The span of dates reflects the fact that all content on a website is copyright, not just content created in a specific year.

The copyright statement usually comes in the format of “copyright [date], [creator or copyright holder].” Including the date is important, as it informs the reader when the copyright protections expire and the work enters the public domain. While under copyright, it is not permissible to reprint work without permission, although it is possible to excerpt it with attribution and to engage in other fair use activities, like remixing or parodying the work. Copyright law is a complex topic, and some aspects of fair use are under dispute, which is an important thing to be aware of; if there are any doubts, it is often advisable to contact the copyright holder.

Copyright notices often appear near contact information, making it easy to determine who to contact to get information about permissions. Copyright holders can license the right to use their work under specific circumstances; a publisher, for example, might agree to allow a textbook company to excerpt a chapter of a book as part of a text. The license doesn't allow for unlimited use, and usually comes with a contract providing specific information about allowable uses of the work.

Some statements may include more information about the rights, such as a copyright statement declaring that people are actually free to reprint and distribute the work with appropriate attribution. Copyright holders can decide how much license they want to permit; a photographer might be willing to allow other people to use her photographs without explicit permission, for example, as long as they are not used for profit.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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