What Is a Copyright Statement?

By David Carnes

A copyright statement, normally referred to in the United States as a copyright notice, is a short statement affixed to a published work of authorship such as a book or a music CD. Its function is to notify the public that the work is copyrighted and to provide information about the copyright holder. A copyright notice should be conspicuously displayed on the work and properly formatted.

Legal Significance

Published works created in the United States before March 1, 1989 require a copyright notice to qualify for copyright protection under U.S. law. After the United States joined the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works by signing an international treaty, Congress amended the Copyright Act to drop the requirement of a copyright notice on works first published on March 1, 1989 or later.


A standard copyright notice will begin with the copyright symbol -- the letter "c" in a circle -- the word "copyright," or the abbreviation "copr." This is followed by the name of the copyright owner and the year in which the work was first published. A copyright notice can help you track down the copyright owner to request permission to use the work. However, you have to be aware that copyright holder might have sold his copyright to someone else after the copyright notice was affixed to the work.

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Even though the use of a copyright notice is no longer a legal requirement for copyright protection in the United States, its use confers significant advantages. A copyright notice can help deter infringement because it indicates that the copyright owner is serious about enforcing his rights. In a copyright infringement lawsuit, the fact that a copyright notice was affixed to the infringed work will prevent the infringing party from claiming "innocent infringement." Innocent infringement means unintentional infringement; it is used by defendants to decrease the amount of damages awarded by the court.

International Protection

In addition to the Berne Convention, the United States is a member of the Universal Copyright Convention. This allows authors who create a work in the United States to enjoy copyright protection under the laws of any country that is a member of either convention. Most of the countries in the world are members of at least one of these two conventions. Unlike the Berne Convention treaty, however, the Universal Copyright Convention treaty offers international copyright protection only to published works that include a copyright notice. This means that works published in the United States without a copyright notice are not protected in countries that joined the Universal Copyright Convention but not the Berne Convention.

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Related articles

How to Copyright Something in Canada

Under Canadian law, a copyright is created as soon as you reduce an original work of authorship to tangible form. Full legal protection, however, does not attach until you register your copyright with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. You don't have to be a Canadian citizen or resident to obtain copyright protection or register your copyright. Copyright protection in Canada guarantees you copyright protection in any nation that has signed an international copyright treaty.

Newspapers & Copyright Laws

Copyright law protects works of authorship, including material printed in newspapers. Although there is no area of copyright law that applies specifically to newspapers, the unique features of newspaper publishing -- the corporate ownership of most newspapers, for example -- raise questions about how copyright law should be applied.

What Is Copyright Infraction?

With easily copied material available on the Internet, the likelihood of copyright infraction has increased. Copyright is a legal protection for the creators of original literary, musical, artistic and intellectual works. Protection generally lasts until 70 years after the creator’s death. A copyright owner has the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, display and prepare derivative works of the original work. Protection automatically exists as soon as the work is in fixed or tangible form, but optional copyright registration gives the owner the right to sue in federal court to protect the copyright.


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