Copyright

Copyright Notices

You see them everywhere from TV shows, to books, to movies, to song lyrics. Virtually any time you're dealing with something that someone else created, you're going to see a copyright notice.
If you want to protect your rights -- or make sure that you don't violate anyone else's rights -- you need to know exactly how copyright notices work.

First and foremost, what exactly is a copyright?

In the US, a copyright is a right that dates all the way back to the Constitution. Specifically, in Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, Congress is given the power to "promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited time to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries."
In other words, the author of a work gets to exclusively sell his work for a limited time.
Copyright protection has been bolstered by the federal laws that have been created since. Now, copyright owners get to decide exactly how their works are used and distributed. Copyright laws are designed to protect the original author of intellectual property -- like art, poetry, songs, movies, and even computer software.
Contrary to popular belief, things like inventions, designs for a specific product, and company slogans do not fall under copyright protection. Instead, those things are protected by patents and trademarks.
You're not required to formally register your copyright whenever you create new intellectual property. Your rights as the owner automatically go into effect the moment your intellectual property is created, even if you haven't published it yet.
However, if you do want to formally register with the US Copyright Office you' ll have to fill out a quick form, pay a one-time fee, and provide a deposit of the work being registered. You'll get a certificate that lists several details, including:
  • The title of the copyrighted work
  • The author of the work
  • The name and address of the official copyright owner
  • The year the work was created
  • Some status information about the work, such as if it contains information that previously registered, or if the work is unpublished
But what if you and a friend write a book together? Who gets the copyright protection?
Both of you.
The two of you are considered joint authors under US law, so you would both have full copyright protection for the entire book.
Or, if you and a group of people each write one chapter to create a big book, you'll each have copyright protection for the individual chapter that you wrote.
Fortunately, the US has copyright relations with dozens of different countries. As a result, you'll have full copyright protection in any of these countries no matter how many people may have collaborated on the work.

Why is Copyright Protection so important?

Ever since the days of the American Revolution, lawmakers have agreed that copyright protection is a good safety net of sorts for creators. Since they know their work isn't going to be stolen, people are more willing to create wonderfully artistic things and share them with the public.
Plus, with this protection intact, creators can be compensated for their work. Without a copyright, anyone could come along, copy the work, and profit from it.

What is a Copyright Notice?

It's a written statement that's placed on copies and phonorecords of a work. It informs the public that the copyright owner of this particular work is officially claiming ownership of it. Unlike other notices and disclaimers, this one is very easy to write because there isn't much to it.
In order to create a proper copyright notice, you need to have these 4 things:
  1. A symbol
    A copyright notice starts with a symbol, and there are a couple of different ones that you can use. The most common is the copyright symbol:
    Copyright C symbol
    However, you can also use the full word "Copyright" or the abbreviation "Copr."
    If your work is an audio recording, the copyright symbol has a P in it instead of a C. That's because these works are classified as phonograms:
    Copyright P symbol
    Even though the symbol is different, a phonogram copyright comes with all of the same protection that a traditional copyright does.
  2. A date
    The year listed in a copyright notice can either be the year that the work was created (if it's still unpublished), or the year that the work was actually published. In either event, full copyright protection applies. Also, the year can be listed in numerical form (ex: "2017") or in Roman numeral form (ex: "MMXVII").
  3. An owner
    The name of the copyright owner can vary. It can be the owner's full name, an abbreviated version of the owner's name that people recognize, or an alternate name that's commonly known to the general public (like a pen name). It can also be a company, business or organization.
    Here, the owner is Dex Media:
  4. Dex Media's Copyright Notice
  5. Specific rights claimed
    At the end of a copyright notice, you'll find a statement of rights. There are 3 ways that rights can be claimed:
    • "All Rights Reserved" means that the copyright owner is claiming all of his legal rights under copyright law. If anyone wants to copy any portion of this work, they'll have to contact the copyright owner first to get permission. This is the most commonly used rights statement in copyright notices.
    • "Some Rights Reserved" means that the copyright owner is claiming some of his rights, but is willing to waive other rights. Those rights vary from owner to owner.
      Creative Commons is a great example of "Some Rights Reserved" because every creator who posts their work there can decide which rights they'd like to hang onto.
      For example, one copyright owner may allow people to use his work as long as they attribute it to him.
      Other works on Creative Commons may come with more specific rules, which can lead to a longer copyright notice.
      Take a look at the copyright notice for this slideshow presentation:
    • Copyright Notice for a Creative Commons license on a Slideshare presentation
    • "No rights reserved" means that the creator of the work isn't claiming any of his legal copyrights. Instead, he's releasing his work into the public domain so that other people can use it, modify it, and enhance it.
      If you're searching for public domain works to use, be on the lookout for this symbol:
    • No Rights Reserved C copyright symbol

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