Use of the © (copyright) symbol

It is something that is often overlooked however it is considered best practice to add a copyright statement and the little c symbol (Copyright Statement) on any literary or artistic works (Works) that a business publishes and asserts that it owns.  Under Australian law, the “material form” of all original Works is automatically protected by copyright, however applying a Copyright Statement acts to put people on notice that the Works are protected by copyright and to provide a contact for anyone seeking permission to use it.[1]

Use of the © copyright statement on Works

The Australian Copyright Council states that when using a Copyright Statement on a website that the publisher should use the:

  • copyright symbol,

year the Works came into existence; and

  • the name of the person or entity that is asserting ownership.[2]

For example:

© 2024 Dundas Lawyers Pty Ltd

Taking this a step further we consider it best (in the case of an Australian corporate owner) to include the ACN of the company as the following example shows:

© 2024 Dundas Lawyers Pty Ltd ACN 150 373 167.

What’s the purpose of including the name of the owner in the copyright statement?

The reason for including the name of the owner of the copyright is so that anyone interested in using the Works in question can make contact with the owner seek permission to use some or all of it.  It is therefore important that the contact details of the party asserting ownership are able to be found easily.[3]

Use of a generic Copyright Statement

In the case of a website owned by a corporation that has a significant amount of content (literary works) created over many years it may be more accurate (and simpler) to include a more general Copy Statement like this:

© 2011-2024 Dundas Lawyers Pty Ltd ACN 150 373 167.

Including terms by which the Works in question may be used

The owner of the copyright can authorise (or prohibit) use of Works in question subject to any number of different terms.  For example the owner may add any number of qualifications to the Copyright Statement to show the material may be used for example:

© 2011-2024 Dundas Lawyers Pty Ltd ACN 150 373 167, material may be reproduced for use by individuals only;

© 2011-2024 Dundas Lawyers Pty Ltd ACN 150 373 167, reproduction subject to an open source licence, see our terms and conditions (add hyperlink); and

© 2011-2024 Dundas Lawyers Pty Ltd ACN 150 373 167, reproduction strictly prohibited, except as provided for pursuant to the Copyright Act 1968(Cth).

The legal benefit of including a Copyright Statement

When asserting infringement of copyright one of the limitations that can be pleaded is referred to as the ‘innocent infringement defence”.  Section 115(3) of the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) (Copyright Act) states:

“(3)  Where, in an action for infringement of copyright, it is established that an infringement was committed but it is also established that, at the time of the infringement, the defendant was not aware, and had no reasonable grounds for suspecting, that the act constituting the infringement was an infringement of the copyright, the plaintiff is not entitled under this section to any damages against the defendant in respect of the infringement, but is entitled to an account of profits in respect of the infringement whether any other relief is granted under this section or not”.

Whilst not a defence to infringement in itself, the effect of section 115(3) is to limit the amount that a defendant may have to pay, if infringement is held to have occurred to an account of profits.  In most circumstances the determination of an account of profits results in a lesser amount than in the case of damages.  The use of a Copyright Statement on all Works can be used to negate an argument of an infringer that they did not know that the material was subject to copyright, resulting in section 115(3) not being available.

Use of the Copyright Statement in computer code

The same rationale discussed above applies to incorporating a Copyright Statement into computer code.  Computer code is a different class of literary work under the Copyright Act.  It is usual to see a Copyright Statement in a “rem, remark statement, or comment’ at the start of the code.  A rem statement or comment is a non-executable statement included in computer code that is used for a variety of purposes including documenting how the code works.[4]

If for example an employee of Dundas Lawyers Pty Ltd was the author of some software and the firm did not licence its use then the following Copyright Statement would be appropriate:

© 2023 Dundas Lawyers Pty Ltd ACN 150 373 167, all rights reserved, reproduction without permission strictly prohibited.

Better yet would be to include in the comment, Dundas Lawyers contact information as there is no size limitations in comments.   For example:

© 2023 Dundas Lawyers Pty Ltd ACN 150 373 167, all rights reserved, reproduction without permission strictly prohibited.

© 2023 Dundas Lawyers Pty Ltd ACN 150 373 167, Level 13, 270 Adelaide Street, Brisbane QLD, Australia 4001 www.dundaslawyers.com.au telephone 1300 386 529.


Takeaways about the Copyright Statement

Correct use of the Copyright Statement is often overlooked in protecting a businesses intellectual property.  It’s non-use can have a significant repercussions should a business have to initiate legal proceedings for copyright infringement.

Links and further references

Related articles

How much copying results in copyright infringement?

Innocent infringement of copyright.

Groundless threats of copyright infringement.

Palmer breaches copyright – liable for $1.5m AUD in damages.

s115A Copyright Act – infringement outside Australia.

Legislation

Copyright Act 1968 (Cth)

Further information about the Copyright Statement

If your business needs advice on protecting its intellectual property, contact us for a confidential and obligation free and discussion:

Malcolm Burrows Lawyer

 

 

Malcolm Burrows B.Bus.,MBA.,LL.B.,LL.M.,MQLS.
Legal Practice Director
Telephone: (07) 3221 0013 (Preferred)
Mobile: 0419 726 535
e: mburrows@dundaslawyers.com.au

 

Disclaimer

This article contains general commentary only.  You should not rely on the commentary as legal advice.  Specific legal advice should be obtained to ascertain how the law applies to your particular circumstances

[1] Arts Law, ‘Copyright information sheet’, ArtsLaw (Web Page, 2021) <https://www.artslaw.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Copyright-Info-Sheet-2021.pdf>.

[2] Australian Copyright Council, ‘Copyright for businesses’, page 34.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Microsoft, ‘REM Statement (Visual Basic)’, (Web Page, 15 September 2021) <https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/dotnet/visual-basic/language-reference/statements/rem-statement>.

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