What is the copyright symbol ©?

rubber stamp marked with copyright

The copyright symbol consists of the letter “C” (for “copyright”) within a circle. While copyright notices appeared in the 17th Century and became mandatory in the U.S. with the 1802 Copyright Act, the symbol was only introduced in 1909 with the Copyright Act of 1909. It only applied to pictorial, graphic, and sculptural work. 

Today, the copyright symbol can be used to protect original work including books, writing, poetry, songs, movies, web contents, or even choreographies. However, it cannot be used for certain materials, such as ideas, procedures, names, slogans, general symbols, designs. Additionally, you cannot copyright a name; to protect a name you use or intend to use, you must register it as a trademark with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. 

How do you use the © symbol? 

You can use different styles to identify your work:

© Year & Name of your work 

Copyright Year & Name of your work 

Copr. Year & Name of your work

Is the mention of “Copyright” or © or “Copr.” mandatory? 

In 1988, the Berne Convention Implementation Act, effective March 1, 1989, made the copyright notice optional. You won’t lose your copyright if you do not put the symbol, and you will not get into any kind of trouble. However, not displaying the copyright symbol might lead to “innocent infringements” where, for example, someone uses the same logo because he was unaware that it was protected by copyright. In this case, the damages that you may recover in court are usually low. If you display the copyright symbol and somebody uses your work, that person cannot hide behind the “innocent infringer” defense as he cannot say he did not know it was protected by copyright. The person will face higher consequences, and higher damages than if you had not displayed the copyright symbol. 

The © symbol is valid internationally, you do not have to register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office to use it, as long as it is registered with a copyright agency somewhere in the world. 

How can you register your copyright? 

Registering your work and getting copyright protects your intellectual property, original work, and authorship. You do not have to publish your work to copyright it. It is fairly easy to register a copyright in the United States. You can register a copyright by connecting to the copyright’s office online registration system, filling out the required information on the registration form, and paying the fees. You may also be required to submit a copy of your work, depending on the category of work you want to register the copyright for. 

EPGD Business Law is located in beautiful Coral Gables, West Palm Beach and historic Washington D.C. Call us at (786) 837-6787, or contact us through the website to schedule a consultation.

*Disclaimer: this blog post is not intended to be legal advice. We highly recommend speaking to an attorney if you have any legal concerns. Contacting us through our website does not establish an attorney-client relationship.*

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