Copyright symbol

This article is about the legal symbol. For other uses, see Copyright symbol (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with the Enclosed C symbol.
Copyright symbol

The copyright symbol, or copyright sign, © (a circled capital letter "C"), is the symbol used in copyright notices for works other than sound recordings (which are indicated with the ℗ symbol). The use of the symbol is described in United States copyright law,[1] Copyright law of Thailand, and, internationally, by the Universal Copyright Convention.[2] The symbol is widely recognized, but under the Berne Convention is no longer required to obtain a new copyright in most nations. For instance, the United States eliminated the copyright symbol requirement as of March 1, 1989, but its presence or absence is legally significant on works published previously.

The C stands for copyright.


Prior symbols indicating a work's copyright status are seen in Scottish almanacs of the 1670s; books included a printed copy of the local coat-of-arms to indicate their authenticity.[3]

A copyright notice was first required in the U.S. by the Copyright Act of 1802.[4] It was lengthy: "Entered according to act of Congress, in the year         , by A. B., in the office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington." In general, this notice had to appear on the copyrighted work itself, but in the case of a "work of the fine arts", such as a painting, it could instead be inscribed "on the face of the substance on which [the work of art] shall be mounted".[5] The Copyright Act was amended in 1874 to allow a much shortened notice: "Copyright, 18        , by A. B."[6]

The copyright symbol © was introduced in the United States by a 1954 amendment to the Copyright Act of 1909, section 18.[7][8]

The Copyright Act of 1909 was meant to be a complete rewrite and overhaul of existing copyright law. As originally proposed in the draft of the bill, copyright protection required putting the word "copyright" or a sanctioned abbreviation on the work of art itself. This included paintings, the argument being that the frame was detachable. In conference sessions among copyright stakeholders on the proposed bill, conducted in 1905 and 1906, representatives of artist organizations objected to this requirement, wishing to put no more on the work itself than the artist's name. As a compromise, the possibility was created to add a relatively unintrusive mark, the capital letter C within a circle, to appear on the work itself next to the artist's name, indicating the existence of a more elaborate copyright notice elsewhere that was still to be allowed to be placed on the mounting.[9] Indeed, the version of the bill that was submitted to Congress in 1906, compiled by the Copyright Commission under the direction of the Librarian of Congress, Herbert Putnam, contained a provision that a special copyright symbol, the letter C inclosed within a circle, could be used instead of the word "copyright" or the abbreviation "copr.", but only for a limited category of copyrightable works, including works of art but not ordinary books or periodicals.[10] The formulation of the 1909 Act was left unchanged when it was incorporated in 1946 as title 17 of the United States Code; when that title was amended in 1954, the symbol © was allowed as an alternative to "Copyright" or "Copr." in all copyright notices.[11]

In countries party to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, including the modern-day U.S., a copyright notice is not required to be displayed in order for copyright to be established; rather, the creation of the work automatically establishes copyright.[12] The United States was one of the later accedents to Berne (1989); the majority of nations now belong to Berne, and thus do not require copyright notices to obtain copyright.

US copyright notice

Main article: Copyright notice

In the United States, the copyright notice required prior to March 1, 1989, consists of:[13]

© 2011 John Smith

The notice was once required in order to receive copyright protection in the United States, but in countries respecting the Berne convention this is no longer the case.[12] The United States joined the Berne Convention effective March 1, 1989.[14]

Digital representation

Because the © symbol has long been unavailable on typewriters and ASCII-based computer systems, it has been common to approximate this symbol with the characters (C).

The character is mapped in Unicode as U+00A9 © COPYRIGHT SIGN (HTML © · ©).[15] Unicode also has U+24B8 CIRCLED LATIN CAPITAL LETTER C (HTML Ⓒ) and U+24D2 CIRCLED LATIN SMALL LETTER C (HTML ⓒ).[16] They are sometimes used as a substitute copyright symbol where the actual copyright symbol is not available in the font or in the character set, for example, in some Korean code pages.

On Windows it may be entered by holding the Alt while typing the numbers 0 1 6 9 on the numeric keypad. It can be entered on a Mac by holding the Option key and then pressing the "g" key. On Linux, it can be obtained with the <compose key> O C ComposeKey sequence.

Related symbols

See also


  1. 17 U.S.C. § 401
  2. Universal Copyright Convention, Article III, §1. (Paris text, July 24, 1971.)
  3. Mann, Alastair J.; Kretschmer, Martin; Bently, Lionel (2010). "A Mongrel of Early Modern Copyright". In Deazley, Ronan. Privilege and property: essays on the history of copyright. Open Book Publishers. ISBN 978-1-906924-18-8.
  4. "Copyright Law Revision Study Number 7, page 6" (PDF). United States Copyright Office. United States Government Printing Office. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  5. Copyright Act of 1870, §97.
  6. 1874 Amendment to the Copyright Act of 1870, §1.
  7. Copyright Act of 1909, §18.
  8. Copyright Law Revision: Study 7: Notice of Copyright (PDF). Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. 1960. p. 11.
  9. Arguments before the Committees on Patents of the Senate and House of Representatives, conjointly, on the bills S. 6330 and H.R. 19853, to amend and consolidate the acts respecting copyright. June 6–9, 1906. Government Printing Office. 1906. p. 68.
  10. "Proposed Copyright Legislation". The Writer. XVIII (6): 87. June 1906.
  11. An Act to amend title 17, United States Code, entitled "Copyrights", Pub.L. 83–743, 68 Stat. 1030, enacted August 31, 1954.
  12. 1 2 Molotsky, Irvin (October 21, 1988). "Senate Approves Joining Copyright Convention". The New York Times. Retrieved September 22, 2011.
  13. 17 U.S.C. § 401(b)
  14. Circular 38A: International Copyright Relations of the United States (PDF). U.S. Copyright Office. 2014. p. 2. Retrieved March 5, 2015.
  17. Stephen Fishman (2010), "The Copyright Symbol", The Public Domain, p. 356, ISBN 978-1-4133-1205-8
  18. Hall, G. Brent (2008). Open Source Approaches in Spatial Data Handling. Springer. p. 29. ISBN 3-540-74830-X. Additional ISBN 978-3-540-74830-4. See Open Source Approaches in Spatial Data Handling at Google Books, page 29.
  19. "Federal Statutory Protection for Mask Works (Copyright Circular 100)" (PDF). United States Copyright Office. September 2012. p. 5. Retrieved 22 March 2014.

External links

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