Copyright & Fair Use Basics

What is a Copyright Notice?

A common misconception is that in order to be protected by copyright, a creator must register their work with the U.S. Copyright Office and place a copyright notice on their work. In fact, current US law does not require the use of a copyright notice or registration with the Copyright Office.

A copyright notice is simply a notice provided by the copyright owner that notifies the user of their underlying copyright. The notice is the sole responsibility of the author and you do not need permission from the Copyright Office to place a notice. 

The copyright notice generally includes:

  • The copyright symbol ©
  • The year of first publication of the work
  • The name of the copyright owner1

In the past, it was mandatory to use the copyright notice on published works. Depending on the timeframe when something was published, whether or not a work has a copyright notice could have resulted in loss of copyright protection. 

Even though it is not required, it could be highly beneficial to register your copyright with the Copyright Office and to place a copyright notice on your work. These simple steps help inform users of your rights as an author.

1. “Copyright Notice and Registration,” n.d.

Benefits of Copyright Registration

Although it is not required, there are several benefits to registering your work with the U.S. Copyright Office:

  1. It establishes a public record of the date and content of your work. In the event of a legal or intellectual property dispute, you can produce verifiable proof of your rights as the copyright holder.
  2. It makes it easier to benefit from your work, by helping others who want to use your work find and contact you for permission.
  3. Although copyright protection under the law is automatic, copyright registration is required to bring legal action against someone who has infringed upon your rights.

How to Register Your Copyright

To register your copyright, you simply need to file an application with the U.S. Copyright Office and pay a small fee. See this FAQ page on their website for detailed instructions.