Sam Brown

How to get Copyright Notices right

“Designers should always assert that their work is protected by copyright by using the © symbol on their page, in the format ‘© YEAR OF PRODUCTION, AUTHORS NAME’. This educates the public that you’re asserting your copyright over the work.”

This quote is from Patent and Trade Mark Attorney Stephanie Burns of Withers & Rogers and was in Elliot Jay Stocks latest article ‘Thwart the design thieves’ in this months .NET magazine.

I would go a step further, especially in the case of blogs where the production date is constantly advancing using ‘Copyright © PRODUCTION YEAR-CURRENT YEAR, AUTHORS NAME’, this can be written once and with a little simple PHP never need to be edited again.

<p>Copyright &copy; 1998-<?php echo date("Y"); ?>, Your Name.</p>

Update as Cameron mentioned in comments adding Copyright to the start is probably also best advised to supplement the © symbol.

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Wade M 1 September 2008, 01:31 #1

Or simply use Creative Commons, allowing your work to reach an active, wider audience under your terms, and avoid the entire issue.



Cole 1 September 2008, 02:05 #2

Good idea Sam. Some thoughts.
Not entirely sure adding a copyright date automagically (server- of client-sided) is necessarily the right approach – copyright is a complete minefield as my colleagues at work encounter on a daily basis. There are potentially a number of issues here:

1. Do web sites/design comprise a publication? If so then copyright (in the UK) applies for 25 years from the date of publication – that would require a cap on your PHP script of 25 years from the initial date of publiation ;) – but there is also a copyright law for “computer generated artistic works” which have a copyright protection of 50 years from the date of creation. Otherwise, in the UK, copyright seems valid for a 70 year period after the author’s death. Websites and design trends have such a fast turnover in redesign that this is rarely likely to be an issue but the archiving of old web sites should be considered in this context.

2. You will need to distinguish between the date of the design and the data of the content – with the separation of content from presentation through the web standards you so passionately adhere to there will inevitably be a disparity between these two.

3. Lots of us host our websites in other countries, be it the US or Germany. IANAL but if you are hosting your site with Dreamhost, for example, I wouldn’t be surprised if America then becomes the country within which the content is published (and therefore the copyright laws of that country would then apply).

What a can of worms!

Cameron 1 September 2008, 04:13 #3

I would suggest using the word “copyright” since (at least in the US) the copyright symbol has never been legally used to replace the word, only suppliment it.

Simon 1 September 2008, 09:20 #4

I agree with Cameron. The format “Copyright ©…” will cover you on both sides of the pond. Whether or not it counts for squat is different matter…

Sam Brown 2 September 2008, 05:12 #5

Great point guys, I have amended my original post.

Jason 10 September 2008, 19:47 #6

While I haven’t yet found anyone directly stealing websites I have designed or developed, I have found a lot of photo thieves… especially on eBay.

Andy Budd 13 September 2008, 00:17 #7

Copyright runs from the date the creative work was made. As such you don’t have to include the current year as that’s implied, just the inception date. I see a lot if misinformed people updating their copyright statement each year, only to reflect the current year and not when the works were made.

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Sam Brown co-founded Iterate, and was previously VP of Design at Foursquare. Based in NYC.