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Copyright Tutorial - How to Protect Your Work

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Submitted on: 1/7/2015 7:48:00 AM
By: Zach Evans (from psc cd)  
Level: Beginner
User Rating: By 5 Users
Compatibility: ASP (Active Server Pages), HTML, VbScript (browser/client side)
Views: 1556
 
     There is a right--and a wrong--way to display a copyright message on your web site. This article explains the correct way to state you copyrights so that you are protected and keep all of your legal options open.

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Did you know that there is a right--and a wrong--way to display a copyright message? Did you know that if you do not correctly format your copyright message the legal remedies available to you in a copyright-infringement case may be limited? If you didn't know either of these two facts, you need to read this article.

When browsing the Web, you're likely to see several different copyright messages on different web sites:
  1. Copyright 1999. All rights reserved.
  2. Copyright ABC Company.
  3. © ABC Company.
The problem with the options shown above is that none of them are the correct way to format your copyright message. Here's what wrong with the message.
  1. The organization/individual claiming the copyright is not mentioned.
  2. The year the copyright was originally claimed is not mentioned nor is that fact that the organization/individual is reserving all rights to the copyrighted information.
  3. Again, the year the copyright was originally claimed is not mentioned nor is the fact that the organization/individual is reserving all rights to the copyrighted information.
So, you may be asking yourself: “What is the correct way to format a copyright statement?” I’m glad you’ve asked.

If you web site is static and never updated, your copyright statement is fairly straight forward:

Copyright © [year copyright is claimed] [organization’s legal name or individual’s name]. All rights reserved. (Note: The © symbol is formed by using this HTML tag: ©)

For my organization, for example, my copyright statement would read like this:

Copyright © 2005 SavageIdeas. All rights reserved.

If the copyright was of a personal nature it would read like this:

Copyright © 2005 Zach Evans. All rights reserved.

Now, if your site is dynamic, or if you update the content on your static site in a year other than when you originally published it, you need to modify the statement a bit. You now need to show a date range in your copyright statement.

If, for example, you originally published your content in 2000, but have since updated the site every year since then, your statement would need to read:

Copyright © 2000 – 2005 [organization’s legal name or individual’s name]. All rights reserved.

Again, for a site that I have published, my copyright statement would read:

Copyright © 2000 – 2005 SavageIdeas. All rights reserved.

Or, if the content was of a personal nature, my copyright statement would read:

Copyright © 2000 – 2005 Zach Evans. All rights reserved.

Many developers hard-code these statements into their web sites, which is a perfectly acceptable solution, except for the fact that you now need to manually update the statement every year. “So why not update the statement programmatically?” you ask. Great question! Here’s how you can do it.

By using a simple ASP script and putting it in an include file, you would be able to dynamically update the copyright statement on your web site. Here’s the code:

Copyright © [year first copyright is claimed]
<%
If Year(Date) > [year first copyright is claimed] Then
Response.Write "- " & Year(Date)
End If
%>
&nbsp;[organization’s legal name or individual’s name]. All rights reserved.

So, again using an example regarding my organization, here’s what the code would look like:

Copyright &copy; 2000
<%
If Year(Date) > 2000 Then
Response.Write "- " & Year(Date)
End If
%>
&nbsp;SavageIdeas. All rights reserved.

Many developers will link their organization’s name to the home page of their web site for SEO purposes and this is completely acceptable. You may also want to tag another statement that deals with your privacy policy or your site map after your copyright statement. Again, this is completely acceptable.

Now that you know the correct way to claim your copyright, happy coding! By the way, you can download an example of this source code by downloading the .zip file included along with this article.

Please note: I am not a lawyer, although I work with legal matters in my ‘day job’ almost every day. I have pieced together these recommendations based upon numerous conversations with a legal professional. If you have any questions regarding the validity of your copyrights, please contact a lawyer.

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