#FreeLegalTip: Copyright Markings

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Properly mark copyrighted materials

Properly mark your copyrighted materials.

It is no longer legally required to use a copyright notice on your work. Previously, formal copyright notices were required by law, and such notices may still be required on older works.

Although a copyright notice is not required for newer materials, it is often a good idea to use one anyway. There are several reasons for this:

Copyright Notice may Avoid Accidental Infringements

Not everyone is aware that copyright notices are no longer legally required. If you do not include a copyright notice on your material, someone may innocently use your work without your permission. Because copyright notices are commonly included on copyrighted materials, someone could easily assume that a work without a notice is not protected by copyright laws.

By including the notice, there is a much greater chance of avoiding accidental unauthorized use of your work by others.

Economic Viability of Taking Legal Action

It can be expensive to enforce a copyright. Even if your work has been copied without your permission, it could cost you more to enforce your rights than the amount you recover from the infringer.

Damages for copyright infringement are normally greater if the infringement was willful compared to innocent infringements. If a copyright notice is included, an infringer cannot claim their use of the work was innocent. On the other hand, without a copyright notice, it can be difficult to prove willful infringement. An innocent infringer may still be liable for copyright infringement, but the damages they are liable for will likely be much lower than if their violation of the copyright was willful.

Copyright Notice may Deter Infringement

The copyright notice prevents an infringer from arguing their infringement was innocent. This may deter potential infringers from copying your work. If they do so and you bring a legal action, they will be considered willful infringers and may be subject to more damages.

Certain Countries Require a Notice

There are some countries that required a formal copyright notice. Using a notice will enable you to protect your work in those countries.

It’s Easy to Do

It’s typically easy to add a copyright notice to a work. The cost is little or nothing, and there are significant potential benefits to using a notice.

Keep in mind that the location of the notice is important, as well as the actual words and symbols used in the notice.

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