How to Use the Copyright Symbol in the UK

Copyright offers a powerful way of protecting your intellectual property. It is essential to ensure you can continue to benefit from the original works you have created and to prevent anyone else from commercially exploiting your IP.

Correct use of the copyright symbol is really important to assert your copyright and avoid the potential for any confusion over what intellectual property of yours is protected. Failure to make proper use of the copyright symbol can make it more likely that people infringe your rights.

In this article, we will discuss the meaning of the copyright symbol, how it can be used, what a copyright symbol can protect and where to display this symbol.

For bespoke advice on the use of the copyright symbol, what to do if your copyright has been infringed and more general intellectual property law issues, please speak to our copyright law solicitors.

What is the meaning of the copyright symbol?

The copyright symbol is displayed as the letter ‘C’ with a circle around it, like this ©. This symbol is commonly seen on works like books, blogs and websites that are “visually perceptible” i.e. that can be seen.

The copyright symbol indicates that copyright is asserted in the work in question and it should not be copied or used without the permission of the owner.

Displaying the copyright symbol is not a legal requirement to establish copyright – you automatically have this for any original works you create. However, proper use of the copyright symbol can help to show when a piece was created in case there is any dispute over this and can discourage copyright infringement.

How do you use the copyright symbol?

To use a copyright symbol, you can add a © to your work along with your name and the year of creation.

Copyright relies on originality and so you may wish to in some way ‘date stamp’ your work if you’re concerned that a third party would copy your work and falsely claim originality themselves. Traditionally, one would leave a copy of the work in question with a solicitor or send the work to themselves by registered post. Today, there are online facilities allowing uploads and date stamps.

What year should be used for copyright?

When using copyright symbols, it’s important to include the year the creative work was made available to the public. For example, on a book the date used for copyright would be the year that the book was first distributed. This includes where copies were being sold and where they were being posted online for free.

In the event that the piece of work includes mentions or sections of content published previously, the date this work was originally release should be used for copyright purposes.

What does copyright protect?

Copyright laws can protect many different types of works, including but not limited to:

  • Books
  • Reports
  • Manuals
  • Sculptures
  • Paintings
  • Music
  • Website content
  • Photos and images
  • Films and tv shows
  • Advertisements
  • Computer software

Knowing whether copyright applies to a work or whether a different type of intellectual property protection is needed may not always be obvious. It is therefore sensible to consult a specialist intellectual property lawyer to make sure you have the right protection in place for any works you have created.

Where is the best place to display the copyright symbol?

When displaying the copyright symbol, placement is key. It should be located somewhere that can be easily seen so it is clear to everyone that this work is your intellectual property.

The best location for the copyright symbol may differ depending on the content. Some examples of places to display a copyright symbol include:

  • Websites – You should display the copyright symbol on the home page. This is normally displayed clearly at the bottom of the page in the footer, so will likely appear automatically on every page of the website.
  • Books – The copyright symbol is normally placed on the title page as well as the front and the back of the book.
  • Art and sculptures – Obviously, in some cases putting the copyright symbol on a work of art can spoil the effect. Because of this, for works like paintings, photographs, sculptures etc., you can put the copyright symbol on the back or bottom of the work.
  • Music – For pieces of music, the copyright symbol is often displayed on the album cover or next to the song’s name on a streaming platform. A © may also be used to protect visual elements, such as the lyrics or album cover.
  • Podcasts – The copyright symbol will normally be placed in the description for individual episodes.

At what point does copyright law apply to my work?

In the UK and other countries that are a part of international copyright law agreements, you will automatically receive copyright protection for your works when they are created. This applies to original works including music, literary matters, broadcasts etc.

Depending on the type of work, copyright protection will eventually expire. Because of this, it’s important to discuss your rights to your intellectual property with a copyright law solicitor.

Why should you use the copyright symbol to protect your work?

As stated previously, the key reason for using the copyright symbol is to make it clear that your work is protected by copyright.

However, there is also another reason to use the copyright symbol. By having a copyright symbol on your work along with your name, those who want to use it have a way to identify you in order to get your permission to do so. In some cases, having people adapt or use your work in other ways can mean more exposure for the original content.

Choosing to licence or sell your copyright

Licensing your copyright for someone else to use can be an excellent way to earn additional revenue and reach new audiences. Once you have given someone the right to use your copyrighted work, they will be able to make use of your work for the agreed purpose. For this reason, it is important that any agreement you make to license your copyright is very carefully worded so as to only allow the specific use you intend.

Rather than deal with licensing your copyright directly, it is possible to register your copyright work with a licensing body. This means that this body can license copyright and collect royalties on your behalf. This can be a good option if you are unsure about the licensing process or don’t have the time or desire to control the licensing of your work.

On the other hand, you may also choose to sell or transfer your copyright to someone else. You will need to create a contract of sale for this and, again, it is important that this is carefully drafted so as to only give the exact rights you intend.

Speak to our copyright lawyers today

For expert assistance with copyright law or any related other areas of media law, contact Saunders Law today for a free, no obligation initial discussion of how we may be able to help.

Call us on 020 7632 4300 or make an enquiry online.


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