Examples of How to Correctly Use the Copyright Symbol

By Joe Stone

The familiar copyright symbol -- a "c" in a circle or © -- is one part of a copyright notice placed on written works to identify the owner of the work and his claim to copyrights in the work. Since March 1989, neither a copyright notice nor the copyright symbol is required under U.S. law to protect new works, although pre-1978 works still require the notice. Still, copyright notices are commonly used even for new works.

Use of Copyright Symbol

A copyright notice placed on a written work includes three elements, the first of which is the copyright symbol. This element of the copyright notice is designated either as ©, the word “Copyright” or the abbreviation “Copr.” The second element of the copyright notice is the name of the copyright owner -- which is not necessarily the author of the work. The final element is the year the work was first published. A copyright notice is typically in the following form: © John Smith 2012 or Copyright John Smith 2012. Copyright notices on musical or literary works prepared as sound recordings require the same three elements, except that the copyright symbol is the letter “p” in a circle or ℗.

Location of Copyright Notice

Placement of a copyright notice on the work depends on the type of work involved, but must be done in a way to best alert others to the rights in the work. The U.S. Copyright Office provides guidelines for appropriate placement of the notice on various types of works. For example, the guidelines for books state that the copyright notice can be placed on the title page, “the page immediately following the title page,” “either side of the front or the back cover” or “the first or the last page of the main body of the work.” A periodical can follow the same guidelines as for a book or include the copyright notice as part of its masthead. The guidelines also address placement of the notice on single-leaf works, contributions to collective works, works reproduced in machine-readable copies, motion pictures and other audiovisual works, as well as pictorial, graphic and sculptural works.

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Omission of the Copyright Notice

A work that omits the copyright symbol ©, the abbreviation "Copr.," the word "Copyright" or the symbol ℗ is considered to have omitted the copyright notice on the work. The effect of this omission depends on when the work was published. Copyrights for works published since March 1989 are generally not affected, but works published prior to that time may lose copyright protection if the notice was not corrected within five years of the work's first publication.

Copyright Office Deposit Requirement

Two copies of all copyrighted works published after March 1989 must be deposited with the Copyright Office, including works that do not include the copyright symbol. This deposit does not require the copyright owner to register the work with the Copyright Office; however, any subsequent registration can use this deposit to satisfy the deposit required for registration.

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Copyrights for Artwork


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How to Get a Play Copyrighted

A play qualifies for copyright protection, typically as a literary work and performing art. However, several broad copyright categories apply to plays, such as literary work, dramatic work, choreographed work, musical compositions, sound recordings, motion pictures, pictorial, graphic and sculptural work and even architectural work. The playwright automatically secures basic copyright in the script once it's fixed in a tangible form. These include paper manuscripts, electronic document files, recorded live performances and published short or full length plays. A playwright should also apply for federal copyright registration as soon as possible. This optional registration provides many benefits, including exclusive ownership and publication rights of a play.

Procedure for Copywriting Music

A copyright protects an original musical work from unlicensed reproduction, sale or copying. Copyright protection exists in a musical work from the moment it is created in a tangible form. Although registration with the United States Copyright Office is not required by law, it is recommended as a method of establishing a permanent record of your creative work. Title 17 of the United States Code sets out the laws relating to copyright in the Copyright Act of 1976, as amended.

How to Copyright in Illinois

Copyright law in the state of Illinois, like all states, is governed by federal law. The U.S. Constitution vests in Congress the power establish copyrights, which was most recently done by enacting the Copyright Act of 1976. The act gives the authors of original works exclusive rights in their works, which applies to the work as soon as it is created in a fixed form, such as a document, video or audio recording. There is no requirement to register the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office; however, registered copyrights receive greater protection and remedies than unregistered copyrights.

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