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Is a Copyright Notice with Multiple Years Legitimate?

Circle-C symbol representing a copyright notice with multiple yearsWe all have seen a typical copyright notice (e.g., “Copyright 2013 Anyhow, Inc.”) countless times. However, every once in a while, someone will see a copyright notice with multiple years (e.g., “2010-2013”) and will wonder whether it is legitimate.

As is explained in Copyright Protection in One Easy Lesson, 17 USC Section 401 states that a copyright notice must contain three elements.

  1. The symbol © (the letter C in a circle), the word “Copyright”, or the abbreviation “Copr.”
  2. The year of first publication.
  3. The name of the copyright owner.

The second element is defined as a single year, that of first publication. Copyright law does not expressly permit multiple years.

However, publishers of frequently-updated works, such as software, apparently desire to convey the idea that different versions of their works appear over time, and each is subject to copyright protection. So they provide a copyright notice with multiple years, the first year being the year of first publication.

Such a notice is not a problem. Even though multiple years are not expressly permitted, the three required elements are present, albeit with some extraneous information.

So, yes, a copyright notice with multiple years is legitimate.

Dana H. Shultz, Attorney at Law  +1 510 547-0545  dana [at] danashultz [dot] com
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