What is Copyright Notice, and why bother with it?

By Harley Rose

A copyright notice may seem like little more than superfluous text tacked on to the end of a website or email, but it is actually quite a helpful tool in protecting IP of this nature.

All countries of ASEAN, with the exception of Cambodia and Myanmar, are party to the Berne Convention, which removed the requirement for copyright notice to be applied to works (though it should be noted that neither Cambodian nor Burmese law expressly orders it either). For those who don’t know, the Berne Convention is an international agreement over copyright; it came into force in 1886 and 179 countries are party to it.

Whilst not mandatory, providing copyright notice for your works is still a useful and recommended practice. As the name suggests, a copyright notice serves to notify the public that the work they are viewing is your protected IP, and there are many benefits to affixing it.

A copyright notice will generally contain either the word “Copyright” or the “©” symbol, the year of publication and the name of the author or owner of the rights. Some copyright notices also include a statement of rights (e.g. “All rights reserved”) to inform of which rights are intended to be kept over the material. Some examples of copyright notices are seen below:

As previously mentioned, there are many advantages of applying a copyright notice to your work, the first of which being that it eliminates any confusion as to who owns it. It clearly informs the reader that copyright protection applies, as well as the name of the owner and the date from when it applies. This can especially come in handy in any copyright disputes where the competing party is attempting to argue that they infringed your copyright innocently; copyright notice ensures that liability cannot be avoided in this manner as the infringer cannot claim that they were not aware copyright existed.

The addition of a copyright notice to a site may also aid it in looking more formal and official. Even if it doesn’t technically enforce anything, it may help deter any potential infringers. People without much knowledge in copyright might otherwise think that your work is free to use. It is easy and free to add, and does not require any form of registration or permission with the relevant IP office. It also does not interfere with any of the benefits already provided by copyright protection.

It is important to note, however, that affixing a copyright notice to your site or work does not automatically grant you any rights where there otherwise would not be. In other words, if you intentionally copy or steal another person’s work, adding a copyright notice won’t make you the rightful owner or exempt you from liability. Additionally, just because a work has not displayed a copyright notice, does not mean that copyright doesn’t apply to it.

The bottom line is that copyright notice, when applied correctly, provides clarity to the public on what is protected. Whilst in itself it does not grant or enforce rights, it is an easy way to help prevent infringement issues later on, and is a worthwhile addition to your work. Stay tuned for our next article on how you can claim rights to your copyright in Southeast Asia.

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