Yesterday I was asked should I be registering my work on a copyright register. I am often asked what is a Copyright Notice, what is it for and do I really need one in my book. In this blog I will try to give you the answers.
So, what exactly is a copyright notice?
A copyright notice is a specific piece of text which is usually placed on the second or third page of a book and which expresses the rights and wishes of the author or owner of the book. Copyright messages are used on a variety of media not just books but other media such as music, magazines, printed matter, TV and Film scripts, and Games.
The text gives notice as to whom the copyright of the work belongs. In the case of an author it is the writing. But if there are any images or a book cover then an illustrator. It informs people that none of the works within or relating to the book can be used or copied by any other person as it is against the law and that any such person infringing the owners copyright can and will be prosecuted. It will also show the date the book was published, the name of the publisher and the ISBN number.
Many authors ask themselves do I really need a notice?
There is currently no legal requirement to include a copyright notice within your book as you, being the creator, automatically become the owner under existing copyright law the moment you write. However, it has become standard practice to have one in all formats of published work especially where product is placed in shops due to them using the ISBN for keeping records. Whether a notice is used or not will not change the fact that your copyright in the work still exists. It is however strongly recommended that you do include one on your work if at all possible, in order to deter copyright infringement.
What are the aims of a copyright notice?
Firstly, it provides a means of identifying who owns the work, be it an author, musician, illustrator, book cover designer etc.
Secondly to make it clear that the work is subject to copyright and that by using the work without the express permission of the copyright owner it leaves that user open to prosecution.
Finally, it does go a long way to deterring infringement and/or plagiarism.
We are often asked where should the notice be placed?
The usual rule to adopt is to ensure that anyone with access to your work is aware of the copyright notice and who owns it. If your work can be broken up into several pieces, then the notice should appear on each part. If it would normally be viewed as a whole then one notice only will suffice. Here are the more acceptable locations for the copyright notice.
i. If you are writing a book, you should only need to place one notice inside the front cover.
ii. Leaflets, commercial documents, etc. should have one on each item produced.
iii. Web pages should have one on every page. This can be a simple notice such as Copyright © 2020. Placing it on your Master page will highlight every page.
iv. In the music industry, one is placed on the CD, cassette or LP itself, and one is also included on any accompanying sleeve or booklet.
v. Photographs and designs will have one at the bottom or on the reverse of the work
vi. Manuscripts: A single notice on the front will normally suffice.
You should also include acknowledgements for any images, excerpts etc. that you have used which are not your own work. Always ensure you obtain permission first before you use anyone else’s work.
So, what does a Copyright Notice consist of?
There are a variety of sections which should be included in the notice. I have not listed these in any given order.
Copyright or ©?
The © symbol is usually accepted by most countries across the world as the correct manner of displaying copyright. However, some countries also require the actual word ‘Copyright’ in order to consider the notice valid. Using both the symbol and word ensures there can be no confusion.
Year of publication
If there were to be a dispute of ownership of a work, the date plays an important part. If your work was developed and published before any potential opponents then you can usually expect to win any case which challenges your rights.
Although you may have written the work sometime prior to publishing it is the date of publication which is shown. For added security we suggest that once your manuscript is complete and to ensure your copyright fully, you date the work, sign it and give a copy to your Solicitor or Bank to hold for you. Should you ever need to prove the exact date you wrote the works you will have solid evidence.
In the case of work which is continually updated, (for example a web site), the year of publication may be shown as a period from first publication until the most recent update, (i.e. 2000-
Copyright Owner’s name
This may be one person, or a collective, band, group or team. With a book this can include an author, illustrator if there are images inside and a book cover designer if different.
If only one person owns the rights to all the work, then their name only appears. Copyright notice would be: Copyright © 2016 Bobby Smith.
If the work is owned by several people then you may choose to include the name of each member of the collective, or the name of the collective itself.
If you use a pseudonym, and while it may not be technically correct for it does not state the name of the legal entity who is the copyright owner, it is sometimes common for an identifiable pseudonym or trading name to be used in the notice to afford the copyright owner a degree of anonymity through obfuscation. You can, of course, add your real name as well if you wish.
You can, if you wish, extend your notice in order to clarify any further wishes you have as copyright owner as in some cases, you may wish to permit certain activities. Or you may wish to make it clear that you are withholding all rights, or require the user to apply for a licence to carry out certain actions. To do this you should include a statement that explicitly sets out these terms. The statement should appear as a sentence after the copyright notice. There are several items to think about when wording your statement. Decide in relation to your work, what you wish to permit. Be specific in your wording, making it clear what you will allow and what is prohibited.
Probably the best starting place is from the point of view of withholding all rights and then carefully word any allowances as exceptions, making sure it is clear that these are the only allowances you will make.
A simple cover all statement is the All Rights Reserved one. It is the most commonly used statement, perhaps the clearest and which covers most eventualities. It simply means you withhold all rights to the maximum extent allowable under law.
There are additional deterrents against infringement such as registering your work with a copyright association. If you have done so and have a registration number then feel free to quote it. By displaying it in the notice, you are demonstrating you are aware of your rights, that you take your rights seriously, and that you have very strong evidence of copyright ownership with which to pursue a case if your work is infringed. This section would normally appear next to or below the copyright notice and state. ‘This work is registered with the UK Copyright Service.’ Place the number after it.
So, what about registering your work with a Copyright Registration Service?
In the UK & Europe, in fact with most countries, copyright of your work becomes yours the moment you create it. This is governed by the terms of The Berne Convention and the WIOP Agreement in which most countries are signed up to. I appreciate that in the USA things are treated slightly different but here in the UK copyright is automatically yours. What we suggest at Mentoring Writers is that once your work is complete you save a copy, date it and lodge that copy with either your Solicitor or your bank or place a digital copy with the date on a mini hard drive and do not open the file as it changes the date shown. If you want to read copy the file which is why I always have at least 3 mini hard drives hence 3 copies. It is also why I strongly suggest that all Indie authors place a copyright notice in their books when publishing; even if they are they are publisher.
You can obtain a draft copy of a Copyright Notice by emailing me at contact@ann-
In the meantime:
Remember in this modern world it is totally impossible to stop copyright infringement but a notice does go a long way to ensure that people know who owns what. And it gives you a fighting chance should you need it.
If you need help with your writing then check out our website or enquire for details of the services offered by firstname.lastname@example.org and we will endeavour to assist you in your writing journey.