What is copyright? Copyright is a form of protection granted by law for original works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright protects literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works including writings, artwork, photographs, poetry, songs and movies. Copyright protection attaches or begins once the original work (photograph, writing, drawing, image, etc) is fixed or created. The moment I am done typing this blog post it will be protected by copyright. The moment you post your photograph to Facebook, Flickr or Instagram it is protected by copyright. What is a copyright notice? A copyright notice is a statement placed on copies of a work to inform the public that a copyright owner is claiming ownership of it. A copyright notice has three parts: 1) The copyright symbol © (or for phono records the symbol ℗), the word “Copyright” or the abbreviation “copr.”; 2) the year of first publication of the work; and 3) the name of the copyright owner. For example: © 2019 Michele G. Moss. Who should use a copyright notice? The use of a copyright notice is the responsibility of the copyright owner and does not require permission from, or registration with the U.S. Copyright Office. Copyright registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit in federal court for copyright infringement. However, you do not have to register copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office to use a copyright notice or for copyright protection to exist. If you want to put others on notice that you are claiming all rights in the works that you author, you should place a copyright notice on your work. Is a copyright notice required? The answer is it depends on when the work was published. Copyright notice was required for all works published prior to March 1, 1989, with a few exceptions. For any works created after March 1, 1989, copyright notice is optional. What is important for you to know is that even though you may not see a formal copyright notice on a photo, video, writing, song or other work created after March 1, 1989; it doesn’t mean that someone is not claiming ownership of copyright in that work. How to avoid copyright infringement: To avoid any allegations of copyright infringement, assume that any work (i.e. any image, video, song, photograph, writing, etc) you encounter online or offline, unless you created the work yourself, is protected by copyright. Before using a work for any purpose, find out the owner or author of the work and seek their permission. Copyright infringement is a strict liability statute. In other words, your intent does not matter. Even if you did not intend to commit copyright infringement or you did not know that the photo, writing, video or image you are using was protected by copyright; that is no defense to a claim of copyright infringement. All is not lost. There are defenses available to copyright infringement, such as fair use. In addition, there are some things that copyright does not protect. Facts and ideas are not protected by copyright, no matter the source. Also, government documents such as legal decisions and statutes are not protected by copyright. If you or your business have been accused of copyright infringement, seek the advice of an attorney with experience in copyright law immediately.