Copyright Laws: How Do I Show My Work is Copyright Protected?

Couple Working Together
123RF.com

How Do I Show My Work is Copyright Protected?

How you show your work has a copyright is more a matter of preference than U.S. law. However, many authors do require you to show their own copyright in a certain format and you can also require others to follow your own specifications for using your works.

For example, you may allow someone to use your work freely for personal use as long as they give you credit in a preferred format (that you decide) but may restrict use for commercial purposes.

You might also allow (or not allow) derivative works (changes to your creations.)

When using material from someone else, it is very important that you honor the author's request as to how they want credit shown, including how they want their copyrights displayed.

Examples of Copyright Formats

There are many ways you can show you are the author or creator of copyrighted material, including:

  • Copyright (word) + Date:
    Example: Copyright 2008
  • Copyright Symbol + The Date or Year Something Was Created:
    Example: © March 2008 or ©2008
  • Copyright Symbol With Word:
    Example: © Copyright 2008
  • Symbol Alone (when showing reference to something specific)
    Example: How To Copyright Your Publications© written by Anita Newborn.

Sometimes, authors also use the words “All Rights Reserved,” or “All Intellectual Rights Reserved.” Neither is really necessary as a copyright already indicates that your rights are protected.

Do I Have to Show an Actual Copyright Symbol?

Not necessarily, although it is in your best interest to indicate on the work or a webpage where the work is displayed to declare your ownership and rights to a particular work. If you ever end up having to sue someone for copyright infringement it will be easier to assert that the person who used your work without permission knew that they did not have the right to.

There are many reasons why someone may not wish to put a symbol on a work. Paintings, photographs, and tangible art such as sculptures and furniture would have to be physical altered (stamped with a symbol) which would affect the art itself.

Meta data and program coding are two other examples of works that a creator may own but not stamp with a copyright symbol.

It's Always Better to Assume You Have No Rights to Someone Else's Work

The bottom line is that if you did not create something unless it is in the public domain, you mostly likely do not have the automatic right to reuse something -- even if you give credit to the source.

If there is ever any question about whether or not you can use something for a particular purpose, it is always best to contact the creator and ask for permission.

Find Your Next Job

Job Search by