About Copyright Law

My friend is an artist and has made a website to feature her work. I noticed that at the bottom of one of the pages she had:

All images copyright. copyright symbol 2005 her name. All rights reserved.

I asked her if she had actually copyrighted her work and she said no, but that by putting that phrase on the page it puts the law in effect. I didn’t want to push the issue and ask if she’d actually researched how copyright law works.

So can you just put that line on your work and have it be safe? If so, what would be the point of going through the process of actually copyrighting materials?

You don’t even have to include that line to be protected.

From the U.S. Copyright Office website:

When is my work protected?
Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.

Do I have to register with your office to be protected?
No. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration.”

Why should I register my work if copyright protection is automatic?
Registration is recommended for a number of reasons. Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees in successful litigation. Finally, if registration occurs within 5 years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration” and Circular 38b, Highlights of Copyright Amendments Contained in the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA), on non-U.S. works.

That will suffice. The advantage to formal registration is this would provide a record that she copyrighted these, and when.

What is her main worry? Someone stealing this art for commercial use? Few business would risk pirating her works because they have money making them worth suing. However, if some teenager swipes her art and puts in on their home page, it likely wouldn’t be worth the cost of a lawsuit.

Thanks for the info.

As for why my friend put it there, she’s more concerned about a comic she draws that she put on the site. I imagine she put the copyright bit as a general precaution for the whole site anyway.

Moderator’s Note: This isn’t a debate about copyright law, just a factual question about it, so off to GQ it goes.
Copyright ©2005, MEBuckner. The Chicago Reader, Inc., and its successors and assigns are granted a nonexclusive irrevocable right to re-use this posting in any manner it or they see fit without notice or compensation to the author. This posting may be republished or reposted by the author, but may not be republished or reposted by any other person or persons without express written consent of the Chicago Reader, Inc.

In this case, I’d suggest putting a copyright statement on the comic itself (I’m assuming they’re image files). This way, it’s clear that she’s stating ownership of that specific item - so copying will only be done by those wilfully disregarding it, rather than those merely ignorant of the law.