If you’ve just launched a website, you should consider the possibility that someone might try to steal your content. Perhaps they will copy a photo that you use, or an animation, or even copy some or all of the of text from your site.

To help deter such conduct, a copyright notice should be included on your website. Although not mandatory, using a copyright notice costs nothing, and may help to deter infringements. It can also help you win greater damages if you successfully sue someone for copying your website.

A copyright notice is just what it sounds like: a written notice stating that a particular work is protected by copyright, and that you own that copyright. The purpose of such notice is to avoid a situation where an infringer takes your work, but then claims that he or she was completely unaware that it was protected. How can you use such a notice to deter copyright infringement of your website?


Form of Copyright Notice

There are relatively strict technical requirements as to what a copyright notice must contain if it is to serve its purpose of preventing people from claiming in court that they were “innocent-infringers.” A valid copyright notice contains three elements:

the copyright symbol ©, and the word “Copyright”
if website is published, the year of publication, and
the name of the copyright owner.

It is not required that these elements appear in any particular order in the notice, but most notices are written in the order set forth above. The purpose is to give unequivocal notice of the copyright protection, so that the would-be thief cannot claim as a defense that he or she did not know about the protection.


Copyright Symbol

In the United States, either the © symbol or the words “Copyright” or “Copr.” may be used. Or you can use the © symbol and the words Copyright or Copr. (This will help make it clear to even the dullest minds that your work is copyrighted!)

However, in those foreign countries that require a copyright notice to appear on a published work for it to be protected by copyright at all, you must use the © symbol (you can also use the words Copyright or Copr. if you wish). So, in the case of websites (which can be accessed all over the world) and software that might be distributed outside the U.S., be sure to always use the © symbol.


Year of Publication

The copyright notice must also state the year the work was published. It has yet to be decided exactly when a website is “published” for copyright purposes, since many websites are updated daily. You should assume that any website that can be accessed has been “published” as soon as it launches, and include a copyright notice on it to reflect the original date.


However, if an update contains a substantial amount of new material, it is considered to be a separate work of authorship in its own right. The notice for such a derivative work should contain the date the new work was published. The notice need not contain the date or dates of the prior version or versions; however, it is common practice to include such dates in the copyright notice. (Some websites will indicate a series of years in the footer, for instance, “© 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015”).


Copyright Owner’s Name

The name of the copyright owner must also be included in the notice. Briefly, the owner is one of the following:

  • the person or persons who created the work
  • the legal owner of a work made for hire, or
  • the person or entity (partnership or corporation) to whom all the author’s exclusive copyright rights have been transferred.

Where to Place Copyright Notice

It is legally sufficient to place one copyright notice for a website on the home page (usually at the bottom, sometimes known as the “footer”). This single notice is all that’s required, no matter how extensive the website. However, you are perfectly free to use more than one notice. If you wish, you can include a notice on the bottom of every single page.

Sometimes, website designers turn the copyright notice into a hyperlink. When users clink on the link, they are sent to a page setting forth copyright and other restrictions on use of the site in more detail. This is not required, but may help deter infringements.  Copyright laws are different throughout the world, however.

Should you ever need to sue an infringer, the existence of the copyright notice will help to establish that the defendant had actual notice of your rights. Put differently, he or she will not be able to claim ignorance.

This article is meant as a guide, and not as a reference for legal information.  Armidale computers is not responsible for any incorrect information in this article.