One of the most powerful forms of legal protection is also one of the easiest to obtain. Under federal copyright law, you can declare your ownership of an article, blog, website, or similar creation simply by affixing a legal copyright notice to it. (Mandatory legal disclosure: I am not an attorney, nor have I played one on TV, so this is being provided as general information and not legal advice.)
The notice consists of three parts presented together in order: the copyright symbol “©” or word “Copyright,” the year in which the material was created, and the name of the copyright owner. For example: ©2015 John Smith or Copyright 2015 Veeblefetzers, Inc. Simple, right?
Unfortunately, many individuals and companies just can’t get it right. They leave one of the three parts out, or they mix up the order. “John Smith Copyright 2015” or “© John Smith” are not legal copyright notice. If you find yourself in court trying to defend your ownership, and you’ve used an incorrect form of notice, you may lose your rights.
Two other big mistakes surrounding copyrights:
- You’ve noticed that the word is spelled “copyright.” That’s not “copywrite.” The two words sound the same but mean two entirely different things. A copywriter may write copy that is copyrighted, but she can’t get a legal copywrite for what she has written. (Picky, perhaps, but accuracy counts in legal matters.)
- You can’t copyright a product name, slogan, logo, or tagline, and if someone tells you there’s is copyrighted, they’re misinformed. Those creations are covered by trademarks, or the trademark’s cousin, the Service Mark. (And no, they’re not the same thing as a copyright.)