Should you update copyright notices on your website?

Date: 15 Jan, 2009
Posted by: admin
In: hints & tips|internet, web design & development|Search Engines, SEO & SEM

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Inspired by considering my response to a post at http://www.seomoz.org/ugc/update-the-copyright-year-on-your-website; this post is biased to UK law but is relevant to all states of the Berne Convention .. that’s nearly everywhere including the US.

It’s 2009 people! Should you be changing all those 2008s?

Types of copyright notice:

  • Simple footer link (“copyright”) to a detailed page – the method preferred here.
  • Dated link or simple text for current year, with or without named creator, eg “©2009 alicious.com”.
  • As above (or below) with a date range, eg “©1997-2009 alicious.com” (yes I have content here that old!)
  • Dated symbol alone, eg “©2009″

Ways to update your website copyright notices:

  • Server side scripting, eg PHP, ASP, Perl, either just issuing the date from the current year or issuing a date base on a file modification time (filemtime).
  • Client side scripting, eg using Javascript, Flash, and querying a clients computer for the date.
  • Static date rewriting, eg using a search and replace program or manually going through all content and changing dates.

Clearly the way you decide to notify people about your copyright dates and requirements (what type of attribution you like, what you consider to be a small excerpt (for quotations), how web links should be made back to you, etc., reflects on the the method you’ll use to date your works, or not date them!

Do I need to add a copyright date? No!

Why not just link to a page with copyright details for the whole site – this is what the UK IP Office does ( http://www.ipo.gov.uk/copyright.htm ). Applying a dated notice is not required to get your protection under the Berne Convention and so since 1989 has not been needed in the US. Nearly the whole world is signed up to Berne (164 states – http://www.wipo.int/treaties/en/ShowResults.jsp?lang=en&treaty_id=15 ).

US Copyright notices prior to 1989

Prior to ’89 the requirement was to label the year in which the work was created, not merely the year of reproduction. That would make it wrong to just update the year on old posts – indeed it could be claimed to be a fraud against the public as you are claiming an extended but legally unfounded restricted copyright period. That only works if you’re Disney or some other billionaire media magnate.

Will a date provide proof of when it was created

Suppose in 60 years time you’ve died and your family are trying to protect your blog posts from being infringed by copyright denying scoundrels. Will having a date on the page help protect it? I doubt it, archive .org or similar may help.

SEO, Creative Commons and copyright notices

Shouldn’t we all be using Creative Commons licenses like CC-BY-NC or CC-BY-NC-ND too? That would encourage others to advertise for us by using our great content!?


This post © alicious and licensed under CC-BY-NC please post a body text sized link to this blog page if you reuse/adapt/critique this content. Non-commercial use include use on websites with non-animated adverts.

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