How Do I Protect My Content with a Copyright Notice? by @KelleyKeller

Photo Credit: opensourceway via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: opensourceway via Compfight cc

by Kelley Keller

You’ve launched your website, written a blog post, published an ebook, or recorded a podcast and you want to make sure no one steals it. You’ve spent a lot of time creating content that will be useful to your audience and help you build your brand and business. You need to protect it!

The first step to protecting your original work is by identifying it as your intellectual property. That requires using a copyright notice that publicly communicates your ownership of that content.

How to Write a Copyright Notice the Right Way

A copyright notice must include three key elements to appropriately notify the public that you own your original work (e.g., your website content, blog post, ebook, podcast, video, etc.):

1. The copyright symbol

The copyright symbol (i.e., the C in a circle) goes first. If you’d prefer, you can begin your notice with “Copyright” or “Copr.” rather than using the copyright symbol.

2. Date

The year of first publication of the original work comes second in the copyright notice. In copyright law, “first publication” is the date when the original work was first offered for public distribution through sale (e.g., selling your ebook through Amazon) or for the purpose of further distribution (e.g., publishing your ebook on your website and making it available for visitors to download, read, and share).

3. Owner

Last, include the name of the copyright owner in your copyright notice.


Here is an example of a complete copyright notice using the copyright symbol:

© 2014 Kelley Keller

No, You Can’t Copyright That

Remember, you cannot copyright ideas. You can only copyright your original work (which means it must be created entirely by you) once it has been “fixed in a tangible medium.”

That simply means it can’t be copyrighted if it’s in your head. It must have a physical form. In other words, your idea for an ebook cannot be protected by copyright laws, but once you write the ebook, it can be.


Keller Head ShotKelley Keller is an intellectual property (IP) attorney, author, and legal commentator on IP matters with 18 years of “real world” experience in the field. She has written numerous articles on the subject, including publications in legal journals on the impact intellectual property has on everyday business.  Other contributions to business magazines and various blogs look at the relationship between intellectual property protection and social media use at home and work, copyright in the new digital economy, and the business side of branding.

In addition to practicing law, Kelley speaks about it. She presents at conferences, business events, and in various educational venues, on topics such as intellectual property and its role in business growth and sustainability, molding company culture, and driving employee satisfaction. She is frequently called upon to share her expertise in print, online, and on the air. Her content unpacks and decodes the complexities and importance of intellectual property to everyday business.

Kelley will tell you that it is part of American culture to understand the maxim, or at the least the principle behind it, “If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.” If you invent something that improves people’s lives (think the personal computer) or simply makes them happier (the remote control) you just might become very rich. If you start a blog, turn it into a book, and then write a screenplay that becomes a blockbuster hit (think Julie and Julia), you just might become very rich. If you build a company with a powerful brand recognized by millions of people (think FACEBOOK®), you just might become very rich. Innovation and creativity are the lifeblood of the American economy. Understanding your rights and responsibilities in the IP world is crucial to getting in on the action.

Named one of Central Pennsylvania’s Top 25 Women of Influence for 2013 and placed on the acclaimed top Forty Under 40 list published by the Central Penn Business Journal in 2012, you can find Kelley on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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