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Do I Need To Have a Copyright Notice on my Work?

16 January 2019

Many works include a Copyright Notice. But what is a Copyright Notice? Do you need to have one on your work to obtain copyright protection? And why can they be a good idea for content owners?

What is a Copyright Notice?

A Copyright Notice is a short block of text that identifies a claim of copyright ownership or authorship of a work.

As a minimum, a Copyright Notice will include information to identify the year of publication and the name of the copyright owner of the work.

An example of a very simple Copyright Notice is as follows:

© 2019 John Smith

Some Copyright Notices will identify the owner of different parts of copyright (such as text, lyrics, music or illustrations). They may also include legal wording asserting particular rights or containing a warning against copyright infringement. For example:

Text: © 2019 John Smith.
Illustrations: © 2019 Mary Smith.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright owner, unless specifically permitted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 as amended.

Where can you find the Copyright Notice on a work?

The positioning of a Copyright Notice will vary depending on the type of material, but common places for a Copyright Notice be located are:

  • for documents: in the page footer or at the start or end of the work;
  • for electronic or recorded media, such as software, CDs and DVDs: on the cover art or in the accompanying documentation;
  • for films: in the credits
  • for websites: on a Website Terms / Legal page or at the footer of the webpage.

Do you need to have a Copyright Notice?

The short answer is: No, a Copyright Notice is not strictly necessary to obtain copyright protection in Australia.

Under Australian law, a copyright work is protected automatically if:

  • the material is of a type that is recognised by the Copyright Act (literary, musical, dramatic, artistic works, sound recordings, cinematograph films, broadcasts and published editions of works are recognised);
  • the work is recorded in a material form (for example, written down or recorded);
  • the work meets the necessary level of originality;
  • the author is an Australian citizen or resident at the time the work was created, or the work is first published in Australia.

If a work does not have a clear Copyright Notice, this does not mean that the work is not protected by copyright, or that you are free to use it without permission.

Why should you include a Copyright Notice?

There are a number of reasons why included a Copyright Notice in a work can be a good idea.

Identifying the Owner

A key function of a Copyright Notice is to identify the (asserted) legal owner of copyright in a work.

Identifying the copyright owner has the obvious benefits of enabling consumers and users of the work to know who claims to be its owner.

This can then make it easier to contact the owner. For example, if a user wants permission to copy or use the work, identification of the copyright owner will assist the user to make further inquiry.

Evidence of Ownership or Infringement

A Copyright Notice can also serve as legal evidence of a claim for copyright ownership.

If a work bears a Copyright Notice, in some circumstances the Copyright Notice can be taken to be evidence of the identity of the copyright owner.

Where infringement is in question, the Copyright Notice can also be used as evidence that the infringing user was aware of the claimed copyright in the work. In some situations, a court can award additional damages to a copyright owner where it is proved that the defendant knowingly infringed the copyright.

Deterring Infringement

A Copyright Notice also serves as a deterrent to warn users that the work is protected by copyright and that appropriate permission should be sought before using the work.

Calculating the Duration of Copyright Protection

For many kinds of works, the duration of copyright is determined by the year in which the author died. If the Copyright Notice identifies an author, this may assist to identify if a work is still under copyright protection.

Other works depend on the year a work is made, or first published, to determine whether the work remains in copyright. For example, a cinematograph film is protected by copyright for 70 years after its first publication. Including the date of first publication enables users to determine whether the film is still protected by copyright.

Giving Permissions or Licences

Some copyright owners choose to make their works available for public use under certain conditions.

Where this is the case, it makes sense for the copyright owner to include those permissions or licences in the Copyright Notice.

For example, if a copyright owner chooses to allow use of their work under the Creative Commons Licence, it is common for the Copyright Notice to include a statement referring to the Licence version and any imposed conditions or restrictions.

It is also important to remember that the Australian Copyright Act legally allows certain uses of a copyright work (for example: fair dealing, or technological reproductions). These permissions do not have to be specifically given, and in many cases they cannot be rescinded by the copyright owner.

Take advice

While this post demonstrates some of the benefits and features of a Copyright Notice, if you are a content creator, it is important to get advice about including a Copyright Notice in your work.

Content users should also carefully consider their intended use of any material (even if it does not contain a Copyright Notice) to ensure they do not infringe copyright in the work.

Xuveo Legal can provide copyright advice and support to both content owners and users. Please contact us today if you would like further information.

This post is intended for general information only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. You should obtain appropriate professional advice for your circumstances or contact us for further assistance.

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