The copyright symbol is usually tucked away at the edge or a corner of a published or produced material that’s considered “visually perceptible” either directly or with a machine’s help. Though quite small, its presence holds a huge significance, especially for the copyright holder. If you're not the owner or holder of the copyright then you need to be careful about using other people’s creation so you won't bear legal liabilities.

What is a copyright symbol?

A copyright symbol, also known as a copyright notice, is a specific identifier that informs the public that someone has ownership over an original creation. It is designed as an encircled capital C © to refer to the "copyright."

The symbol is in accordance with the 1952 Universal Copyright Convention which states that, along with the ©, a copyright notice must also contain the name of the copyright owner and the year the original work was published or produced. These conditions are also underscored in the U.S. 1976 Copyright Act.

Since March 1, 1989, however, the Copyright Act removed the requirement for copyright notices. Essentially, this means that creators of materials published or produced after the said date do not have to put a copyright sign or notice on their work because they automatically enjoy the protection of the copyright law. Yet, some creators still put the copyright mark or notice even if their works have been recent to further safeguard their legal rights and as a deterrent against potential thieves.

Why use a copyright symbol?

Why use a copyright symbol?

Having a copyright icon denotes that the work or material is someone's original creation. If the notice is present, then it will make it easier for the public to seek the copyright owner for permission to use the material.

If it so happens that this work has been infringed, then it's also easier for the copyright holder to file a copyright infringement lawsuit or negotiate for compensation and acknowledgment. The individual, group, or entity that violated the owner's copyright won't be able to say that they did not know the work was copyrighted since the symbol is present. However, they could get away with claiming that they innocently took someone's work if there was no symbol or mark on the material.

In some cases, copyright can also help determine the term of protection based on the year of publication. It can also establish the identity of the copyright holder in cases where the work or material has been existing for several decades.

How to use a copyright symbol

It's the copyright owner who has the responsibility to use the copyright symbol or provide a copyright notice on the material. The copyright icon contains three main elements:

  1. The © icon or the word "Copyright" and its abbreviated form, "Copr."
  2. The copyright owner’s name - which doesn't necessarily have to be the author or artist. Sometimes, other individuals or companies that hired the creator may be the copyright owner.
  3. The year of first publication or production. However, this may not be necessary for images, graphics, sculpture, and other forms of artwork. The publication or production date may also not be needed for reproduced copyrighted work as in greeting cards, postcards, toys or any useful articles, as per the Copyright guidelines.

When a copyright notice is omitted

As stated, original works made public after March 1, 1989, do not need a copyright notice. However, a problem might arise for materials published or produced before this date if the copyright notice has been omitted. The law requires that a correction to the omission should have been corrected five years after the first time it was published.

Where to place the copyright symbol

While the notice is optional, copyright owners may actually use any type of placement for its copyright icon or notice. However, it would be prudent for the copyright owner to apply formalities when placing the notice. Ideally, two things must be considered:

it should not be concealed it must be legible or easy to read by anyone who sees the material

In single-page materials, the copyright notice may appear on the front or back. In books or multiple pages, copyright notices are usually placed on:

  • The title page
  • The back of the title page
  • The first page following the title page
  • The last page after the main content
  • The back page

On websites, the copyright notice may be sufficient on the footer of the home page, but some web owners have copyright signs on every page, and that's perfectly fine, too. Sometimes, web owners also put clickable copyright notices that redirect users to the details of the copyright, such as permissions, restrictions, and other information that the copyright holder might deem useful to deter violations.

Copyright symbol examples

The most common copyright notice looks this way: (Symbol or Word) (Year of Publication) (Copyright Owner)

© 2019 John Doe
Copyright 2019 The Workshop Company
Copr 2019 Photography, Inc.

In cases of unpublished works, which is still protected by copyright laws, the notice may be formatted this way:

Unpublished © 2019 John Doe
Unpublished Copyright 2019 The Workshop Company
Unpublished Copr 2019 Photography, Inc.

How to type copyright character ©

There are several ways you may insert the copyright character into your documents or elsewhere.

1. Copy it from the web

Most of the time people basically copy and paste the copyright character from the internet. Just select the copyright character, copy it and past it where you need it.

2. Type copyright symbol on Windows

If you're using a PC or Window-based laptop, you can type the copyright symbol by pressing and holding the ALT key while typing 0169 on the number pad.

3. Type copyright symbol on Mac

If you're using a Mac computer, press and hold down the OPTION on the keyboard and type "g" for the copyright symbol.

4. Access it via the character map

The © may also be accessed via the character maps on any computer.

If you're using Windows, go to:

  1. Start Menu
  2. All apps
  3. Windows Accessories
  4. Character Map

If you're a MacOS user, click on the Edit selection from the menu bar on the top of the screen. Look at the bottom and select "Emoji & Symbols" then search for the copyright sign.

5. Use the copyright symbol HTML code

If you need to insert the copyright symbol on your web page, you may use the following HTML code to do so:


Download free copyright icon

If you're looking for a copyright icon to use in your images, you may download one below:

Copyright symbol icon (128px by 128px)

Download (size 128px by 128px)

Copyright symbol icon (64px by 64px)

Download (size 64px by 64px)

Copyright symbol icon (32px by 32px)

Download (size 32px by 32px)