Letting People Know You Have a Copyright

We explained that you don’t need to register a copyright to own one. Nor do you have to provide notice of a copyright for it to exist. (See the Copyright Office Circular on Notice.)

Nonetheless, whatever kind of creator you are, a copyright notice is a very good idea, and is probably crucial to your personal copyright management. If you want to give people a general authorization to use your work, say so. If you don’t, you should tell them that, too. Whatever your work is, it is worth being clear to others what uses you permit, and what uses you do not.

Whatever notice you provide, you should include, in addition to the ©:

  • Name(s) of author(s)
  • Date of the work’s publication

In addition, if you are distributing your work in digital form, and especially if you are making it available over the Internet or other network, you should include:

  • Permitted uses
  • Author’s email address and link to author’s web page

If you are distributing the work in hard copies, try—if it is not too cumbersome—to add your contact information, as well as information regarding permitted uses.

If you are not sure what you want to permit (and what you don’t want to permit), or if you want to reserve the possibility of changing your mind in the future, you don’t have to specify particular uses. You can provide your contact information to assist potential users to find and ask you. Of course, if you do know what uses you want to permit, and want to allow those uses for free without people having to ask you, that's fine, too. If you want people to use your work for free and don’t want to create a do-it-yourself list of uses, the Creative Commons licenses are one shorthand way of describing what uses you want to permit and forbid. If you don’t want people to use your work for free, however, ready-made online licenses may not be a good idea.

It is also a good practice to register your copyrights.

Registering your copyright →