I have seen both of the following formats used:

Copyright © Some Company 2021-2022

Copyright © 2021-2022 Some Company

Which one of these is correct? Which should go first? If both are valid, are there situations in which one is preferred?

3 Answers 3


In the US, the relevant law is 17 USC 401 which provides in relevant part:

(a) General Provisions.—Whenever a work protected under this title is published in the United States or elsewhere by authority of the copyright owner, a notice of copyright as provided by this section may be placed on publicly distributed copies from which the work can be visually perceived, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. [emphasis added]

(b) Form of Notice.—If a notice appears on the copies, it shall consist of the following three elements:

(b)(1) the symbol © (the letter C in a circle), or the word “Copyright”, or the abbreviation “Copr.”; and

(b)(2) the year of first publication of the work; in the case of compilations or derivative works incorporating previously published material, the year date of first publication of the compilation or derivative work is sufficient. The year date may be omitted where a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work, with accompanying text matter, if any, is reproduced in or on greeting cards, postcards, stationery, jewelry, dolls, toys, or any useful articles; and

(b)(3) the name of the owner of copyright in the work, or an abbreviation by which the name can be recognized, or a generally known alternative designation of the owner.

(c) Position of Notice.—The notice shall be affixed to the copies in such manner and location as to give reasonable notice of the claim of copyright. The Register of Copyrights shall prescribe by regulation, as examples, specific methods of affixation and positions of the notice on various types of works that will satisfy this requirement, but these specifications shall not be considered exhaustive.

(d) Evidentiary Weight of Notice.—If a notice of copyright in the form and position specified by this section appears on the published copy or copies to which a defendant in a copyright infringement suit had access, then no weight shall be given to such a defendant’s interposition of a defense based on innocent infringement in mitigation of actual or statutory damages, except as provided in the last sentence of section 504(2).

Note that this section lists the three elements in the order 1) symbol or word, 2) year, 3) owner's name. However, it does not explicitly require this order. As the notice is no longer required at all, and as the sole purpose is "to give reasonable notice of the claim of copyright" and to defeat a defense of "innocent infringement", the order is probably not significant. But I would follow the text of the law and list the elements in teh same order that 17 USC 401 (b) does, that is, word or symbol fist, year second, name third. For example

Copyright © 2022 Jane Jones

But other forms probably have identical legal significance.

Note that "Copyright ©" is a redundancy and perhaps I should not have used it in the example here. But it is what I in fact use, and many commercial publishers do the same. I do it because I think the word will be clearest to many English-speaking people, but the symbol will be clearest internationally,

Note also that a notice is no longer legally required. Under US law, until 1 January 1978 (the effective date of the 1976 Copyright Act) any publication without a notice caused the work to enter the public domain at once. After that, until 1 March 1989, any publication without a notice caused the work to enter the public domain in five years, unless the work was registered within that time. Once a work enters the public domain, there is no copyright in that work at all.

Ever since 1 March 1989, omission of a notice never causes a work to enter the public domain under US law, and currently, to the best of my understanding, a notice is not legally required in any country in the world, although it has some legal value under US law.

  • 2
    Copyright © is a tautology. I'm not saying it's wrong, just like how you point out that the order isn't enforced; but it seems weird for you to discuss following the text o the law anyway and then add the extra tautology to it. Was there a specific reason for adding it?
    – Flater
    Mar 24, 2022 at 9:42
  • 1
    It would probably be useful to emphasise "the notice is no longer required at all"
    – jcaron
    Mar 24, 2022 at 11:12
  • 1
    @Flater Yes "Copyright ©" is a redundancy (not a tautology) and perhaps I should not have used it in the example here. But it is what I in fact use, and many commercial publishers do the same. I do it because I think the word will be clearest to many English-speaking people, but the symbol will be clearest internationally, I will mention this in the answer. Mar 24, 2022 at 15:03
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    @jcaron I have added a couple of paragraphs on the former requirement for a motive, and the current lack of any such requirement. Mar 24, 2022 at 15:16

The law does not mandate giving such a statement, and does not mandate what such a statement can or must contain. From the legal perspective, there is no preference. Whether or not there is a statistical tendency to observe one order versus another is purley outside the domain of law.

  • 1
    Are you sure? law.stackexchange.com/questions/1837/… The top answer here indicates that a statement must contain these things, and the bottom answer indicates that the year comes first but without any sources. Mar 23, 2022 at 17:06
  • 3
    This is not quite correct. US law doe not mandate use of any notice at all, but does specify what a valid notice must contain, namely word or symbol; year; adn name of owner. It does not explicitly mandate the order of these elements. See my answer for the relevant US law Mar 23, 2022 at 17:49
  • 1
    @AaronFranke The copyright notice used to be a requirement. It's no longer the case for works published on or after March 1, 1989.
    – jcaron
    Mar 24, 2022 at 11:11

At one time leaving off the circle with the c meant that if you had to sue for copyright infringement, that you could not recover court and legal costs even if you won the case. This may have changed.

  • 1
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    – user35069
    Mar 24, 2022 at 19:59
  • This seems doubtful, unless the claim is that at some point in the past, a copyright notice had to include the encircled-C symbol to be valid. In that case, a citation would be warranted. Otherwise, the effect described seems to be that of leaving out a (valid) copyright notice altogether, not of writing one without the "©" symbol. Mar 24, 2022 at 21:50
  • -1 This is simply incorrect, at least as reguards US law. There was never a period, not under the 1909 Act nor under the 1976 act, when omitting a notice, or using a defective notice preserved copyright but denied the winner court and legal costs. Also, the © symbol has always had the exact same legal effect as the word "copyright" since it was fist introduced. When notice was required, omitting it lost all copyright and totally barred any later suit. After 1 Mar 1989 lack of notice never lost copyright. Also, this does not answer the question about the order of elements in a notice. Mar 25, 2022 at 14:08

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