Is it necessary to copyright your website?

Copyright notices on your website One Nine Design.png

You’ve likely noticed it in the footer of most websites -that little ©  symbol that stands for “Copyright” followed by a year and maybe the statement “All rights reserved.” But what does it mean? And is it necessary? As I started to design more and more websites and include original content, my own design work, and ideas that frankly, I didn’t want people to steal, I started to research how to protect that property. It felt a little gray to me and I wanted to understand how it all works. Now that I know the answers to most of those questions, I wanted to share them with you.

Now, please note that I am not an attorney and this is not legal advice. This is simply me sharing with you what I’ve learned through talking with an attorney and doing my own due diligence. If you’re concerned about your own site and want official, legal advice, please seek that out! 

Let’s start with breaking down the elements you typically see on a website:

The copyright symbol - © 

The copyright symbol is simply a sign that communicates the word “Copyright” and although not required in the U.S., it can be required in some foreign countries. Since websites are accessible all over the world, it’s a good idea to go ahead and use the symbol as a general practice. 

Not sure how to get the symbol? This is a great site to copy and paste from and then just paste it right into your website text. 

The year of publication

It’s important to establish when the work became copyrighted so including the year is important. This is often an overlooked website update, too! While you want the date to include the first year it was published, it should be updated as you update the content.

For example, on my One Nine Design website, I have the following:

© 2017-2019

My website was created in 2017 but it is updated almost weekly. As the year changes I need to update this notice. It’s a good practice to make a reminder on your calendar for the first week of January to update your website footer! 

The Copyright Owner’s Name

The name of the copyright owner must also be included in the notice. This can be the person who created the work, the person who owns the website, or whomever holds the rights to the content published. In my contracts with clients, I give ownership of the content to the client. It’s always good to check your contracts with potential vendors and understand if you have the copyright or if they retain it. This is often overlooked by nonprofits or small businesses who are not aware of these types of issues. It can be dangerous to let a developer or designer own your content.  

Where should you put this information?

While it’s typically only required to list this information in one place, it’s good practice to place the information in the footer of your website so it appears on every page. This lets the website visitor know that you know the rules, your rights, and essentially, they’ve been warned. You can go a step further by actually registering your content with the U.S. Copyright Office (typical cost is anywhere from $30-60) but that is not required (don’t ever let someone charge you to do that for you!). Simply placing the notice on your website is enough to protect your writing or artwork through US Copyright laws. 

So, if you don’t already have this on your website, here’s what your copyright notice should look like: 

© year created - current year. All Rights Reserved by [Copyright holder]


Bottom line:

 First and foremost, be sure that YOU are following all copyright guidelines and only publishing work that belongs to you. And, if you’re hiring someone else to develop or design a website for you, ensure that they are also following the rules. Then, ensure that you have all of the copyright pieces on your website in an easy to read, clear manner. 

 Does your website have this notice? Does it need updated? Take some time today to check and if not, get it updated in the next seven days. It’s one simple way to take a step forward in having a stronger, more effective website.

Until next time, keep making a great first impression!


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