Examples of How to Correctly Use the Copyright Symbol

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

Examples of How to Correctly Use the Copyright Symbol

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

A copyright protects original creative works. Works eligible for copyright protection include books, movies, songs, photos, artistic creations, Web content, choreography, poetry, and writing. The work must be fixed in a tangible medium of expression (i.e. placed in a form where you can see, read, or hear it). Some materials are not copyrightable, including ideas, procedures, processes, titles, names, slogans, familiar symbols or designs, and general fonts or lettering. If you have created a copyrightable work, you can use the copyright symbol, which consists of a "circle c" mark (©), in connection with your work.

Desktop computer with the word "copyright" on it

Registering Work with the Copyright Office

Copyright protection is automatic for a protected work as soon as the artist or author creates it; registration is not necessary. However, it is a good idea to register your work, as registration provides a copyright owner additional legal rights and protections in the event of copyright infringement.

Using the Copyright Symbol

Regardless of whether you decide to register your work, you do not have to use the copyright symbol to obtain copyright protection for it; such protection is automatic. Before March 1, 1989, copyright owners had to use a copyright notice on all published works (i.e. works made available to the public). For works first published after March 1, 1989, use of the copyright symbol is optional.

Nonetheless, using the copyright symbol and your name in connection with your work helps to identify you as its owner and puts the public on notice that your work has copyright protection.

As long as you own a valid copyright, you can use the © symbol in connection with your work, regardless of whether you registered your work with the U.S. Copyright Office.

Identifying Your Work

You can use any form of notice to identify your work because doing so is not a mandatory requirement for copyright protection. Typically, a copyright notice uses either the © symbol, the word "copyright," or the abbreviation “copr.," followed by the year you first published the work and your name name. Sample notices look like this:

© 2018 Jane Doe

Copr. 2018 Jane Doe

Copyright 2018 Jane Doe

If you wish, you can also include the additional phrase "All rights reserved" at the end of your copyright notice. This phrase indicates to the public that you hold all rights to make copies of your work, prepare derivative works based on your work, sell or distribute copies of your work, and display your work publicly. Including "all rights reserved" is optional, however, as is the use of the copyright symbol at all, because you already hold these exclusive rights by virtue of your automatic copyright ownership.

The location of the copyright notice is up to you. Generally, a copyright notice is sufficient as long as the notice is visible to an ordinary user of the work under normal conditions of use. The Copyright Office has published guidelines for copyright notice placement on certain works, such as books, audiovisual works, and pictorial or graphic works. For example, for a game or puzzle box, an author can reproduce the copyright notice on the box itself.

Using the copyright symbol is optional, but it is your right as the creator of the work to identify the creative work as yours. You can register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office for additional protection, but registering is optional. You can use the copyright symbol regardless of whether you register your work.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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