Whom should I list as copyright holder?

I’m starting a microblogging site similar to fmylife, etc. I’d like to have a copyright notice on the bottom of each page. Right now I’m using “(c) 2010 All Rights Reserved” as a placeholder.

I assume I need to add in the name of a copyright holder. Is this correct, or can I leave the placeholder as is? I would prefer not to use my own name (I fear creepy stalkers), and I don’t have a company or anything whose name I can use. What should I do?

The people who actually implement the laws of course. Many laws have had to be amended, updated or replaced as a result of either not being fit for purpose, not correctly thought through or due to a landmark case which redefines the boundaries or variables to be considered. Your statement is actually quite a lot like saying the W3C writes the specs for HTML and CSS so why should we even consider publishers like SitePoint to better explain and define the rules. :wink:

Since you list your location as “nyc” I will assume that your work is governed by US copyright law.

As pointed out above, no copyright notice is required. However, the two previous answers may leave you with the impression that there is no legal benefit to adding the notice to the work. That is not really true.

If a work is infringed and displays a proper notice, the court will not give any weight to a defendant’s “innocent infringement” defense—that is, to a claim that the defendant did not realize that the work was protected. An innocent infringement defense can result in a reduction in damages that the copyright owner would otherwise receive.

So, besides being a reminder to the idiots that Felgall refers to, the notice prevents those idiots from using their ignorance as a defense in court.

Before you start lecturing me on the law of copyright, I strongly suggest that you read the U.S. Copyright Office Circular 3 - Copyright Notice. Taking one or two sentences out of context from a website FAQ without understanding the full implication of the copyright law is dangerous and misleading.

My statements were accurate. No notice is required in the U.S., but there are definite legal advantages to including the notice. It is easy to do so. Why would someone choose not to?

By the way, my law practice has included copyright law for more than 30 years. What is your legal background?

The only purpose the copyright notice serves is to remind idiots that your page is covered by copyright since idiots tend to incorrectly assume that they can steal copyright content as long as it doesn’t say it is copyright.

You don’t need to add a name.

Technically you don’t even need to put a copyright notice on the bottom of the page. Once it’s written you automatically have copyright over it whether you do so or not.

Sorry but you either didn’t read what I said properly or you didn’t understand it. When I said “the people who actually implement the laws” I was explicitly referring to the lawyers, judges and juries who ultimately decide whether the law and conviction fits in that particular case or whether to end up with a landmark case which puts into context the need for reform within the law. You may be correct in your idea that the US copyright office are in charge of administering the law (such as keeping an eye for when changes need to be made), it in NO way reflects upon how judgements are made on individual cases. It’s trials and actual cases where the laws are tested which determine the context and applicability of legislation, in no copyright case I’ve ever heard of have the US copyright office been called in as an expert witness or to overrule the judge or jury’s decision based on their own administrative narrative of the law’s suitability under each trials unique conditions. :slight_smile:

If you can’t trust the government that makes the laws to know and effectively explain the laws, who do you trust?

The poor man’s copyright may work in the U.K., but it’s my understanding that it is almost totally ineffective in the US. According to the US Copyright Office:

The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself is sometimes called a “poor man’s copyright.” There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.

Yes, it is an issue with effectiveness of copyright notices on the web. Again… you only need to prove age if you take it to court or file a DMCA report. Of course when you file a DMCA it’s best to send your original hard copy along for proof of age.

I’m not quite sure how it works in your country of origin, but in the US, the US Copyright office is in charge of administering copyright law as well as advising Congress on necessary changes to the law, etc. Of course you are correct about one thing. Whenever reading advice in a forum you should always consider the source.

That’s the problem at it’s core, while you may not take things to court, filing DMCA takedown notices has become (generally) a common practice (I’ve had to file a number myself) and therefore the need to prove you own content is justified enough to cover the cost of coverage - which contradicts your earlier statement that it’s only justified legal advantages if you want to bring suits. Proof of ownership is important no matter whether you intend a suit or not. :slight_smile:

PS: I only used poor mans copyright as an example (just to justify that there’s other ways to potentially date your materials). Though I do know of cases where it has been successfully used within the USA, so as has been said before - it’s probably not a good idea just to rely on one source (site) as to something’s effectiveness.

I didn’t meant to totally contradict your post. I should have said “The notice alone…”

My point is that to bring an effective suit, along with the ‘free’ notice, you must PAY for copyright registration. It is my understanding that the process for registering a digital work is lengthy and not terrifically effective in a medium, especially a blog or micro-blog, where frequent updating substantially changes it.

The following is excerpted from circular 66 (registration for digital media):

"Under U. S. law, copyright protection subsists from the time the work is fixed in any tangible medium of expression…

"…the registration will extend only to the copyrightable content of the work as received in the Copyright Office and identified as the subject of the claim.

“Generally, copyrightable revisions to online works that are published on separate days must each be registered individually, with a separate application and filing fee…”

Moreover, intellectual property thieves (the idiots Stephen first mentioned) are often smart enough to pre-date their own website copyright notice.

I also never meant to imply to ‘not’ use a copyright notice. It just isn’t something to stress-out about. I see many websites where the copyright is “© ‘domain.com’ 20XX.” I think that is effective as anything.

OK, Firstly, I am not a lawyer. Now that’s out of the way there’s a few things I feel require clearing up. Before I say anything though I have to say that I agree with you in principle (on most of your points) Green Moon, there’s just a couple of things worth stating that affect the information in general.

In regards to cases of intellectual property legislation and “innocent infringement”, I’ve noticed over recent years that many cases (especially related to media piracy) have been tossing out the concept of using the defence (even if no notice exists) on the basis that because computers and the internet have become so widespread, the case for claiming innocence of copyright has run it’s course in digital mediums. Now I’m not saying that there aren’t cases where the defence may hold, but I seriously doubt the level of value implied by the notice of copyright on the basis that the ubiquity of web access lends itself to placing such ownerships over content into common knowledge. I do however agree that because of the ease of implementation, there’s no justifiable cause not to include a statement of copyright to avoid any conflict. I know it probably seems like nit-picking here however after the amount of cases I’ve looked over on the subject of copyright and the law itself it seemed worth highlighting that the defence has been substantially weakened due to the culture in which usage has changed. :slight_smile:

That isn’t true at all, while copyright registration can be helpful there are other ways of potentially ensuring that your work remains of your own. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created, registration only acts as a form of “time stamping” and proof of existence before the infringing material. While the use of a poor-man’s copyright (mailing it to yourself in a sealed envelope) isn’t as trusted as it used to be, it’s still a way of covering the work, and if you can prove the date by another means (such as entrusting a copy to a respected individual such as a lawyer - or having it verified and stored securely in a bank) then you have a claim of an independent witness of a respectable profession. In addition, I know of cases where people have used sites like archive.org as verification and proof of age as it is an independent body which time-stamps content. Copyright registration (of course) would be the ideal solution, but it’s not the only one and while it’s actually quite straight forward, it can get costly and tedious. And if your information changes regularly, it would restrict the level of which you would find it useful.

That’s not really an issue, if you have proof of age (independently) then they have to physically prove the copyright notice date was not only correct but they have to independently show beyond all reasonable doubt that the item in question could not have been manipulated. A simple bit of digital text wouldn’t be a usable defence.

I apologize if I came across a little strong but after quoting my correct statement about displaying the copyright notice, you said: “The notice doesn’t really do a thing which directly contradicted what I said.

Now you explain:

“The legal advantages are only there if you bring suit.”
Well, that’s largely true of most legal precautions, including most written contracts. There are some quasi self help protections like a DMCA notice, but mostly you need to go to court if you can’t persuade the wrongdoer to stop or if you want to collect damages. In addition, if the other party knows that you have an advantage if you bring suit, that is often a factor in getting them to take corrective action to avoid the suit in the first place. It is a weapon you should have in your arsenal.

“It certainly does help to have one when I need to send a ‘cease and desist’ to a thief or file a DMCA report with a web host.” That is true, too.

“Do I use a copyright notice on the web? You bet.” If you use one, why would you flat out tell a user who is asking how to properly display the notice that it “doesn’t really do a thing”?

We really agree on the basic point. I said the notice was not required but that there were advantages to using it. You have now said the same thing. I don’t understand why, since you know there are advantages and even display the notice on your own sites, you responded to my first post in the way you did.

I have read probably hundreds of your posts over the last couple of years and know that you are an intelligent and knowledgeable member of the community. If some know-nothing had said the same thing, I probably would have just shrugged it off and not bothered to respond at all, but it bothered me that you would do that.

The notice doesn’t really do a thing. Here’s what the US copyright office says in their faqs:

When is my work protected?
Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.

What is a copyright notice? How do I put a copyright notice on my work?

A copyright notice is an identifier placed on copies of the work to inform the world of copyright ownership that generally consists of the symbol or word “copyright (or copr.),” the name of the copyright owner, and the year of first publication, e.g., ©2008 John Doe. While use of a copyright notice was once required as a condition of copyright protection, it is now optional. Use of the notice is the responsibility of the copyright owner and does not require advance permission from, or registration with, the Copyright Office. See Circular 3, Copyright Notice, for requirements for works published before March 1, 1989, and for more information on the form and position of the copyright notice.

Do I have to register with your office to be protected?
No. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration.”

Why should I register my work if copyright protection is automatic?
Registration is recommended for a number of reasons. Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees in successful litigation. Finally, if registration occurs within 5 years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration” and Circular 38b, Highlights of Copyright Amendments Contained in the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA), on non-U.S. works.

You’re right, I am not a lawyer. However, I work in the real world of the Internet.

FYI, I didn’t take any sentences out of context. They are as written. The legal advantages are only there if you bring suit. Sure, it certainly is important to copyright and register the copyright for a book. But, how much do you think a micro-blog post is worth?

Do I use a copyright notice on the web? You bet. It certainly does help to have one when I need to send a “cease and desist” to a thief or file a DMCA report with a web host. Yet, in my 10 years of experience in working and writing on the web, I have never considered filing a lawsuit for stolen content. I would be hard-pressed to attach a value (well that’s not true… I know what I charge for a piece—not enough to pay for a phone call to my attorney.) or to prove loss of revenue, which (as my poor un-schooled brain understands it) I would need to prove if I were to file suit.