9 May 2011

Copyright Notice: What Is Next To The C In A Circle?


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Have you ever visited Quora? It is a questions and answers site with some social network characteristics. I visit it twice to thrice a week, mostly on weekends.
When I am there, I look for questions concerning subject matters I believe to be competent in and write corresponding answers.
Why am I saying this all?
Well, because during my visit today, I encountered a question regarding the institute of the copyright notice, particularly what the years’ entries following the © stand for.

I agree, this is something that not many are aware of, but do not worry – I did write this blog post to provide you with the answer!

Let me start spending some words on copyright notices in general.

The copyright notice is a formality developed under US copyright law. It is placed on copies of a work of copyright and basically serves to claim the copyright in such work. Copyright owners were obliged to apply copyright notices on their works in order to attract copyright protection, but since 1 March 1989 this mandatory regime has turned into a voluntary one.
By contrast, the vast majority of authors’ rights countries never relied upon copyright notices.
Hence, all you need to know about them is that they are no mandatory

Conditions

to attract copyright in a work.

Despite, there is a practical effect one should not underestimate: the defence of innocent infringement shall not succeed if the defendant had access to copies bearing a copyright notice.
Thus owing to the emerging globalisation and knowing that the US represent the largest market for works of the mind, even non-US copyright owners apply a copyright notice to their works. What is nowadays’ copyright notices’ primary field of application? I would say it comprises of websites and computer software.

Good, but what does the year following the copyright symbol (that would be the year 2007 in the sketch above) stand for?

This is the

Date Of First Publication

of the work.

Why is this date important? Because under the Berne Convention this is the date that activates a work’s copyright protection. Since copyright is subject to a certain duration, the counter for that work’s protection starts ticking on the date of its first publication.

But sometimes there is another date applied to the copyright notice and it follows the date of first publication, somewhat like the year 2011 in the burlesque sketch above – what is it?

Well, now you are about to enter an area that is reserved only for specialists.

The second date is the date on which the author or copyright owner (or someone authorised by the author/copyright owner) has completed a

Derivative Work

out of the original work.
Derivative work? What is this?

17 US Code, Section 101 defines the derivative work as a work based upon one or more preexisting works. In the realm of a website, for instance, this may be a major update incl. new pictures added, design changes and so on.

Why is the date of completion important? Because derivative works also qualify for copyright protection. Applying the date of their completion equals the signal gun announcing their duration’s countdown.

That would be my answer.
I have not missed something, have I?