Website Copyright

Website Copyright Notice: One Website Change to Make Right Now


February 21, 2021 | Reading Time: 2 Minutes

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If you haven’t yet updated your website copyright notice at the bottom of your company or independent practice website, it may be a good idea to do it now. Having an accurate copyright notice will help keep you protected both legally and ethically. If you are curious about exactly how to configure the notice to be compliant with the current requirements, details can be found at the United States Copyright Office, which is a division of the Library of Congress, the official U.S. government body that maintains records of copyright registration. The library is used by copyright title searchers who are attempting to clear a chain of title for copyrighted works.

With regard to websites, an accurate copyright can protect your artistic work (such as graphic design), literary work (such as blog posts and website content) and audio and video content. How ever you choose to post your copyright notice, it is advisable to consult an informed attorney to determine how to best protect your work. Regular surveys of copyright notices show that 9 out of 10 websites need this simple copyright notice update. 

The legal penalties for website copyright infringement can be steep. The law provides a range from $200 to $150,000 for each work infringed. Infringer pays for all attorneys fees and court costs. The Court can issue an injunction to stop the infringing acts.

As described in Circular #3 from the Copyright Office:

Copyright notice is a statement placed on copies or phonorecords of a work to inform the public that a copyright owner is claiming ownership of it.  A notice consists of three elements that generally appear as a single continuous statement: 

  • The copyright symbol © (or for phonorecords, the symbol ℗ ); the word “copyright”; or the abbreviation “copr.”
  • The year of first publication of the work
  • The name of the copyright owner. Example: © 2017 John Doe

The use of a copyright notice is the responsibility of the copyright owner and does not require permission from, or registration with, the Copyright Office. Copyright notice was required for all works first published before March 1, 1989, subject to some exceptions discussed below. If the notice was omitted or a mistake was made in using copyright notice, the work generally lost copyright protection in the United States. Copyright notice is optional for works published on or after March 1, 1989, unpublished works, and foreign works; however, there are legal benefits for including notice on your work.

The US Copyright Office website contains an extensive Frequently Asked Questions page that answers many associated questions, but the essence of the needed information for configuring a copyright notice in a website footer section (or slide) can be found in the example below: Other documents suggest that to be more comprehensive, the span of years since original copyright to the present year be included, such as in the example below:

“Copyright © 2009-2021 Telebehavioral Health Institute, LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

The year “2009” is the first year that content was added to the website, and “2021” replaces “2020” because the site will have new content this coming year. This simple yet important change is something that you or your web manager can literally do to your site in a couple of minutes. Automated website copyright notice scripts are also available to do this for you automatically every year on December 31 at midnight, and without needing to attend to this task every year.

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Mark D Worthen PsyD
Mark D Worthen PsyD
2 years ago

Excellent advice! Another reason to update your copyright notice is that savvy Internet visitors often check a website’s copyright notice to see if it’s up-to-date. An outdated copyright notice signals website neglect and a lack of attention to detail.

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