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About Website Copyright Notices

First of all, it is not mandatory that one uses a copyright notice on his/her web site. There are, however, some advantages in doing so. Even though a copyright notice is usually very simple, using one on your web site can become complicated. Here are some of the key issues to keep in mind when you write and publish a copyright notice on your web site:

  • You must be sure that the name of the copyright owner is correct. A single web page may contain multiple copyright elements, and therefore a single copyright notice within the page footer may not suffice. For example, a page that contains a photo, some text, and a unique “look and feel” could have three distinct copyright owners. In such a case, three separate copyright notices may need to be included.
  • You must be sure that the year of first publication is correct. If you just use a copyright notice in a web site template reflecting the current year, you should keep in mind that this is not necessarily correct. The year portion in a copyright notice should include the year when the copyrighted work was first published. Many web sites include a range of years in their copyright notices (e.g. “2005-2007”) to cover the various dates on which various elements were first published.
  • You must be sure that the copyright notice is placed properly. The U.S. Copyright Act states: “The notice shall be affixed to the copies in such manner and location as to give reasonable notice of the claim of copyright”. The Copyright Office has issued guidelines for proper position of copyright notices on traditional works such as books and sculptures, but it is not specifically said what is acceptable for web sites. The common practice is to include copyright notices in the footer of every page of a web site.

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