We get a lot of emails from readers of our PowerTips newsletter. Most are complimentary and supportive of what we do as a company for remodelers. Others are comments or questions about the topic of the week.
Last week we received a good one that I’d like to share. It has to do with the copyright notice on your website and how (It turns out) most remodelers are doing it wrong.
Here’s the email we received:
You guys are awesome and are helping us manage growth…and business. Though you may want to see the below email from our web developer, not sure if it is even relevant. Thanks, John
And here’s the email John’s developer sent him (and the screenshot that was included):
The site you mentioned with reference to the article apparently has not taken the time to update their footer … since 2010.
Yep. That’s our website.
I’ve answered hundreds of internet marketing questions over the years, but this is the first time anyone has brought up the copyright!
That made me realize that not only is it an overlooked topic, but likely misunderstood, too.
Two things that make for a great PowerTips article!
So… is John’s developer right?
Let’s dig in and get some clarity on the situation.
First, we should address if a copyright notice on your website is even necessary.
The 1988 Berne Convention Implementation Act amended the 1976 Copyright Act (title 17, U. S. Code) to make the use of a copyright notice optional on copies of works published after March 1, 1989.
So why do it? To cover your “assets.”
If you were to sue someone for infringement, a common defense is to claim innocent infringement, which at the very least would reduce the damages you could collect.
The notice, however, removes any doubt and establishes that the defendant knowingly infringed on your copyright.
§ 401.d is the relevant section of Title 17:
If a notice of copyright in the form and position specified by this section appears on the published copy or copies to which a defendant in a copyright infringement suit had access, then no weight shall be given to such a defendant’s interposition of a defense based on innocent infringement in mitigation of actual or statutory damage…“
Okay, so now we know it’s not necessary, but it is recommended.
Does it need to be updated every year?
Again, I refer to 17 USC Section 401. It provides that copyright notices contain the following three elements:
- The symbol ©, the word “Copyright“, or the abbreviation “Copr.”
- The year of first publication.
- The name of the copyright owner.
As you can see, it’s the second element that is the relevant requirement: The year of first publication. So, no you do not need to update your website’s copyright notice every year.
Actually, I’d take it a step further and suggest that you absolutely should not update the copyright to the current year.
Think about it. If you have a blog post dated December 4, 2014, and the footer on that page says, Copyright © 2016 My Company, LLC., then it could be argued that you do not claim protection rights before 2016. In this scenario, your notice is actually hurting you, by knowingly contradicting the date of the published work.
What about Copyrights that protect a span of time?
You may have seen this format before: Copyright © 2008 – 2016 My Company, LLC.
But is it okay to do?
As you recall, the second element of 17 USC Section 401 cited earlier is defined as a single year, that of first publication. So Copyright law does not expressly permit multiple years.
However, according to Dana H. Shultz, Attorney at Law, “such a notice is not a problem. Even though multiple years are not expressly permitted, the three required elements are present, albeit with some extraneous information.”
So, it would seem that a copyright notice with multiple years is, in fact, legitimate.
Personally, I do like the way the multi-year Copyright looks. And since it’s legally appropriate, perhaps I’ll switch ours over to that format in the near future. But for the time being, I’ll keep it the way it is. That’s one less thing to have to update in January. 😉
I’m sure it goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway: I’m not a lawyer. I didn’t even stay a Holiday Inn Express last night.
So this article is in no way dishing out legal advice. If you have concerns about protecting your intellectual property, you should consult a lawyer.
However, if you’d just like to chat about what you’ve just read then please, drop your comments in the box below!