Every piece of film, print, and digital file should have a copyright notice to assert your copyright, that is, expressing your rights and wishes.
A copyright notice typically looks like this – © 2007 A Photographer, followed by contact details.
The © symbol is the symbol recognised by the majority of countries as signifying copyright.
The year is the year of creation or publication of the image.
‘A Photographer’ is the name of the photographer, or organisation if the copyright is owned by a corporate body.
Although a photographic work is invested with copyright from the moment of it’s creation, to fully protect your copyright it is essential to assert it by means of the notice. If you do not do so, and your image is used without authorisation by another person or organisation, they may be able to claim they were an “innocent infringer”, thus reducing any damages due to you.
There is no legally defined format for the copyright notice, so the format is not critical. We suggest the following be used –
Copyright © Year Name All Rights Reserved Contact Details
Copyright – Not all countries recognise the © symbol and they require the word “copyright” to appear in the notice. Always include the word “Copyright”
© – Always include the © symbol.
Year – It is normal practice to enter the year of first publication (NOT creation), and this has been confirmed by the Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS UK). This is true for both the UK and the USA. For a legal definition of the meaning of ‘published’ see the section entitled
In the U.S. they also state the year should be the year of first publication, but the copyright office in the US gives specific advice for unpublished works, suggesting the the notice appears thus –
Name – The name of the photographer.
All Rights Reserved – There are no laws demanding such a form of wording, but it is strongly advised that this form of words appear in all copyright notices. For example, in the UK, the moral right to be credited is not automatically granted, but has to be asserted – see “What Is Copyright?” for further information. By including this form of words you are asserting all your rights, and should a copyright dispute arise such a statement would strongly influence decisions of the court.
The U.S. Copyright Office has published extensive material with regard to the copyright notice and this can be read in their Circular 3.
Contact Details – Include your contact details so that those who may wish to use your photograph can contact you.
This is an important concept because the date a photograph is first published can be an important factor in determining whether or not a work is protected by copyright, and also because there are statements requiring the year of first publishing to appear in a copyright notice.
The U.K. and the U.S.A have statutory definitions of the term “published”.
The U.K definition of “published” can be found in section 175 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
The U.S. definition of “published” can be found in the Copyright Office Basics Circular 1, click on the chapter heading “Publication”.