There was an article at fient.me today entitled “Copyright notices on websites. Needed?“. While the article is for the most part accurate, I believe there are a couple clarifications that must be made. I am by no means an attorney, but I have researched this issue significantly and here is what I have found.
Before I continue, let’s clarify what constitutes a “copyright notice“. By definition the copyright notice must include 3 parts. The first part is the internationally recognized copyright symbol of the lowercase letter “c” with a circle around it, “©”. Part 2 is the year in which the work was first published, and/or last updated, and finally the name of the author.
The writer is correct in stating that works published after March 1, 1989 no longer “require” the copyright notice based on the Berne Convention Implementation Act. However, the law makes it “optional” and as such there are still countries that do require the copyright notice to be displayed. In the U.S. there are several intricacies that make displaying the copyright notice a good idea.
U.S. copyright law makes “registration” of a copyright mandatory to file legal action for copyright infringement. Registration means actually filing, and paying a fee to, with the U.S. Copyright office. This is required even for websites. Now, before everyone gets in a huff over this, you can still enforce copyright personally, and/or through legal cease and desist letters, without registration, BUT if you want, or need, to bring the battle in to the courtroom having it registered is required. Additionally, registration increases the amount of damages and fees you may recover when suing for infringement. With that said, if you have registered your work you are now required to display the copyright notice.
Registration is the extreme case, but there is another case where displaying the copyright notice is beneficial to you. One of the defenses an infringer can use is that of “innocent infringement”. Innocent infringement simply means that the infringer is saying they did not realize the work was copyrighted because there was nothing pointing them to a copyright of the work in question.
In summary, I believe that while technically you can remove the copyright notice from your website and still be protected, to advocate removing it completely is not the approach I would take. I would think that any decent attorney would advise you to continue placing the notice on your website just in case.
For more information on U.S. copyright law visit http://www.copyright.gov.