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Copyright and Fair Use Guide

Copyright Statements

A copyright statement is NOT required for information to be copyrighted.

  • Copyrighted works are not limited to those that bear a copyright notice.
  • The use of a copyright notice is no longer required under U.S. law, although it is often beneficial. Because prior law did contain such a requirement, however, the use of notice is still relevant to the copyright status of older works.
  • A copyright exists from the moment an author fixes an original idea in a tangible medium. An author does not need to take any action to secure a copyright; however, there are benefits to registering a copyright at the U.S. Copyright Office.
  • Use of the notice may be important because it informs the public that the work is protected by copyright, identifies the copyright owner, and shows the year of first publication. Furthermore, in the event that a work is infringed, if a proper notice of copyright appears on the published copy or copies to which a defendant in a copyright infringement suit had access, then no weight shall be given to such a defendant’s claim of a defense based on innocent infringement in mitigation of actual or statutory damages, except as provided in section 504(c)(2) of the copyright code. Innocent infringement occurs when the infringer did not realize that the work was protected.

Copyright Notice

If you wish to include a copyright notice on your work to strengthen your claim in the event of possible infringement by others, here are the recommended practices:

  • The use of the copyright notice is the responsibility of the copyright owner and does not require advance permission from, or registration with, the Copyright Office.
  • The copyright notice should contain the following three elements:
    1. The symbol © (the letter in a circle), or the word "Copyright" or the abbreviation "Copr."; and
    2. The year of first publication of the work. In the case of compilations or derivative works incorporating previously published material, the year date of first publication of the compilation or derivative work is sufficient. The year date may be omitted where a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work, with accompanying textual matter, if any, is reproduced in or on greeting cards, postcards, stationery, jewelry, dolls, toys, or any useful article; and
    3. The name of the owner of copyright. The name of the owner of copyright in the work, or an abbreviation by which the name can be recognized, or a generally known alternative designation of the owner.
  • Example: © 1998 John Doe
  • The copyright notice should be affixed to copies in such a way as to “give reasonable notice of the claim of copyright.” The three elements of the notice should ordinarily appear together.


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