How Do I Correctly Format a Copyright?

by Robin Elizabeth Margolis

    A correctly formatted copyright notice on your literary, musical, dramatic or other artistic work shows the public that your work is protected, identifies you as the owner of the work, and ensures that if anyone attempts to publish your work without your permission, that person cannot claim that his infringement of your copyright was innocent.

    Step 1

    Start your copyright notice with the lower-case letter "c" with a parenthesis on either side of the "c," forming this symbol: "(c)." You may also use the symbol of a "c" with a circle around it or the word "Copyright."

    Step 2

    Insert a space after the "(c)" symbol and put in the current year in numerals, as in "2011." If this is a new edition of a work you published in an earlier year, you should also insert the earlier year, followed by a comma and a space, and then put in the current year, as in "2000, 2011."

    Step 3

    Insert a space after the current year and type in your legal name. Your final copyright notice should appear in this format: "(c) 2011 Jane Doe." If you have a co-author, that person's name will appear attached to yours by the word "and," as in "Jane Doe and Richard Jones."

    Step 4

    You may also add the phrase "All rights reserved" to your copyright notice. Although this phrase is no longer legally required, it continues to appear in almost all copyright notices. Your notice will then read: "All rights reserved (c) 2011 Jane Doe."

    Step 5

    Protect an unpublished work by placing the following copyright notice on it: "Unpublished work (c) 2011 Jane Doe."

    Step 6

    Place the copyright notice of a book on the back of the title page. Other acceptable locations include the front of the title page, the first or last page of the main body of the book, and either side of the front or back cover. Acceptable locations vary for other products such as software programs, motion pictures and websites.

    Tips & Warnings

    • You may have signed a "work made for hire" contract under which you were paid by someone else to create your product. In that case, the person who paid you will own the copyright to the work and that person's name will appear in the copyright notice instead of yours.
    • Copyright notices of products created before March 1, 1989 fall under older copyright laws and must comply with their copyright notice requirements. Failure to do so can result in the loss of your copyright.

    About the Author

    Robin Elizabeth Margolis is a freelance writer in the Washington, D.C., area. She has been writing about health care, science, nutrition, fitness and law since 1988, and served as the editor of a health law newsletter. Margolis holds a bachelor of arts degree in biology, a master's degree in counseling and a paralegal certificate.

    Photo Credits

    • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images