Protecting your original work became easier March 1, 1989, with the passage of the 1988 Berne Convention Implementation Act, according to the U.S. Copyright Office. Although you do not have to include a copyright statement on your work after that date, a copyright notice lets others know that a work is protected by law. What you say and where you place your copyright notice depends on the work. If the work is something visual, such as a book or a film, use the copyright form for "visually perceptible" copies. If your work is something heard, such as CDs or audio tapes, use the "phonorecord" form.
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Begin a copyright statement for something you can see by adding the words "Copyright" followed by the copyright symbol, the letter C in a circle. You can also use the abbreviation "Copr," says the U.S. Copyright Office.
After the copyright symbol, add the date the work was first published, so your statement now looks like, for example, "Copyright © 2010." Your work must be distributed to be considered published. If you sell, lend, rent or transfer the work, it is considered published. If you modify the work, add a second date, so the statement would read "Copyright © 2010, 2011."
Type your name after the copyright date so your statement reads "Copyright © 2010 Your Name." Place your notice in a visible place in your document such as a title page, in part of a masthead, or on a label on the product.
Type in the title of the work and then add the phonorecord copyright symbol to start your copyright statement. The phonorecord copyright symbol is a capital letter P in a circle.
Follow the phonorecord copyright symbol with the year of the first published sound recording.
Type in the name of the owner of the copyright after the year of publication. Place the copyright on the medium of the phonorecord or container to give notice of copyright.
Tips and warnings
- According the U.S. Copyright Office, works created since 1978 are given automatic copyright protection for the life of the author plus 70 years.
- For the ability to sue for damages for copyright infringement, you need to register your copyrighted work. Registration is inexpensive and can be done online at the U.S. Copyright Office for some works.
- If you are not offering a work for publication, you can still copyright it, according to the U.S. Copyright Office. To copyright an unpublished work, type "Unpublished work," and then add the "Copyright Symbol" to the document. Next, add the year and then your name.
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