Using copyright notices

Fact sheet P-03: Using Copyright Notices

Issued: August 2000
Last amended: 17th June 2016

Copyright notices, and how to use them to best effect in protecting your work.

  1. What is a copyright notice?

    A piece of text which accompanies a work and expresses the rights and wishes of the owner(s).

  2. Do I need a notice?

    There is no legal requirement to include a copyright notice. Whether a notice is used or not will not change the fact that copyright exists in the work. It is however strongly recommended that you include one on your work if all all possible to deter copyright infringement.

    The aim of copyright notice is to:

    • Make it clear that the work is subject to copyright.
    • Provide a means of identifying the copyright owner.
    • Deter infringement or plagiarism.
  3. Where should the notice be placed?

    The rule to adopt is to ensure that anyone with access to your work is aware of the copyright. If your work can be broken up into several pieces, then the notice should appear on each part. If it would normally be viewed as a whole then one will suffice.

    • If you are writing a book, you should only need one inside the front cover.
    • Leaflets, commercial documents, etc. should have one on each item.
    • Web pages should have one on every page.
    • In the music industry, one is placed on the CD, cassette or LP itself, and one is included on any accompanying sleeve or booklet.
    • Photographs and designs will have one at the bottom or on the reverse of the work
    • Manuscripts: A single notice on the front will normally suffice.

    Include acknowledgements for any images, excerpts etc. that you have used which are not your own, and ensure that you obtain permission before you use anyone else’s work.

  4. What does a notice consist of?
    1. Copyright  

      Some countries will not accept the symbol alone, they also require the word Copyright to appear in order to consider the notice valid. Using the word ensures that there can be no confusion.

    2. ©  

      The normally recognised symbol. Most countries across the world accept this as the correct manner of displaying copyright.

    3. Year of publication

      In case of a dispute of ownership of a work, the date plays an important part. If your work was developed and published before any potential opponents then you can usually expect to win any case which challenges your rights.

      In the case of work which is continually updated, (for example a web site), the year of publication may be shown as a period from first publication until the most recent update, (i.e. 2000-2015)

    4. Copyright owner’s name

      This may only be one person, or it may be a collective, a band, group or team for example.

      If there is one person who owns the rights to a work, then his/her name will appear on its own. If however, your work is owned by several people then you may choose to include the name of each member of the collective, or include the name of the collective itself.

    This would give your copyright notice the following appearance: Copyright © 2016 Bobby Smith.

  5. Using a pseudonym

    Although it may not be technically correct (it does not state the name of the legal entity that is the copyright owner), it is very common for an identifiable pseudonym or trading name to be used in the copyright notice to afford the copyright owner some degree of anonymity through obfuscation.

  6. Phonogram rights in sound recordings phonogram copyright symbol

    Sound recordings have a right separate from the underlying musical composition, and a sound recordings should carry a phonogram copyright notice (denoted by the P in a circle) for the recording itself. The standard © notice should also be used, but in the case of sound recordings this is used to protect the cover design, lyric sheets or other printed material included with the sound recording.

    In our example, this would give the appearance of the notice as Copyright © 2016 Bobby Smith, phonogram copyright symbol 2016 Bobby Smith.

    Tip: On most computers the phonogram copyright symbol symbol can be found within the Webdings font.

    You may also wish to increase your notice in order to clarify any further wishes you have as the copyright owner, this is dealt with in the following sections.

    Extending your copyright notice

  7. Why extend your notice?

    In some cases you may wish to permit certain activities, in others you may wish to make it clear that you are withholding all rights, or require the user to apply for a licence to carry out certain actions. To do this you should include a statement that explicitly sets out these terms, the statement should appear as a sentence after the copyright notice.

  8. Wording your statement

    There are several items to think about when wording your statement. Decide in relation to your work, what you wish to permit. Be specific in your wording, make it clear what you will allow and what is prohibited.

    Probably the best starting place is to think from the point of view of withholding all rights and then carefully word any allowances as exceptions, making sure it is clear that these are the only allowances you will make.

    Here are some areas to consider:

    1. Copying, duplication, reproduction

      The right to produce a copy of the work

      Do you wish certain groups to be able to copy your work? if so what terms would you attach?

    2. Selling, hiring

      Normally this would be expressly forbidden without the copyright holders consent.

    3. Distribution  

      You may for example have written a shareware program which you will allow to be duplicated and distributed freely so long as you are identified as the author.

    4. Commercial or personal use

      Will you allow your work to be used differently by certain groups or individuals?

      Educational or private study use is generally permitted under law in any case, but you may want to allow copying for private use but not for commercial gain.

    5. Licenses  

      For software, commercial and educational documents in particular, the copyright notice may carry information about obtaining a licence to reproduce the work.

      By not obtaining a licence, use of the work may be considered in breach of copyright.

    6. Right to be identified as the author

      If for example, the work is distributed without your control, you will wish to ensure that you are still identified as the author/copyright owner.

    Note: Acts done in the course of private research or study, criticism or news reporting do not normally constitute an infringement.

  9. Examples of copyright statements
    • All rights reserved

      A simple cover all statement. This is the most commonly used statement, and perhaps the clearest, and covers most eventualities. It simply means that you withhold all rights to the maximum extent allowable under law.

    • Any unauthorised broadcasting, public performance, copying or re-recording will constitute an infringement of copyright.

      Another cover all statement, this one is designed for use on sound recordings, but can easily be adapted to apply to other types of work.

      The wording makes it clear that the authors rights are taken very seriously. For maximum effect you can combine (a) and (b).

    • Permission granted to reproduce for personal and educational use only. Commercial copying, hiring, lending is prohibited.

      For businesses and organisations this kind of statement can be of mutual benefit as allowing reproduction may help to promote their message.

    • May be used free of charge. Selling without prior written consent prohibited. Obtain permission before redistributing. In all cases this notice must remain intact.

      This is the type of notice often used for software distributed as "freeware" or "shareware", by specifying that the copyright notice remains intact you ensure that all copies will identify you as the author.

    Remember, copyright notices are straightforward statements, there is no need to get tied up with legal jargon, the point is to state your wishes clearly and succinctly.

    Additional deterrent against infringement

  10. Notice of registration

    Copyright Witness clients are also permitted to state that their work is registered.

    This is an additional deterrent against infringement, by displaying the notice, you demonstrate that you are aware of your rights, that you take your rights seriously, and that you have very strong evidence of copyright ownership with which to pursue a case if your work is infringed.

    The notice would normally appear next to or below the copyright notice and state. ‘This work is registered with Copyright Witness.’ You may also include your registration number if you wish.

    For further information examples and images that you can use on your own work, please see our registration notice page.

Creative Commons License

This fact sheet is Copyright © Copyright Witness and protected under UK and international law.
The use of this fact sheet is covered by the conditions of a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works License.

This fact sheet is intended only as an introduction to ideas and concepts only. It should not be treated as a definitive guide, nor should it be considered to cover every area of concern, or be regarded as legal advice.

Linking to this page

If you find the information on this page useful, please feel free to link to this page, (no permission is needed). The easiest way is to simply copy and paste the following XHTML code into your web page.

The link will appear on your page as:

Copyright Notice fact sheet from Copyright Witness.

Education pack download

This factsheet is included in our PDF educational factsheet pack which is free to reproduce for educational establishments, libraries, advice centres and other non-commercial organisations.