Re: Copyright Updating Question

Subject: Re: Copyright Updating Question
From: Doug Isenberg <disenberg -at- GigaLaw -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- RAYCOMM -dot- COM
Date: Wed, 23 Feb 2000 20:28:03 -0500

"Murrell, Thomas" wrote (in part):
> If we update a document that was copyrighted in 1998 or 1999 now that we're
> in the year 2000, do we automatically update the copyright, too? I've seen
> copyright notices on other documentation and software that will say, for
> example, "Copyright 1994-1999" other times I see only the latest year of
> release on a document or software set that I know has been around, and
> copyrighted, for years.

The U.S. Copyright Office has the following things (among others) to say
about copyright notices:

"The use of a copyright notice is no longer required under U.S. law,
although it is often beneficial. Because prior law did contain such a
requirement, however, the use of notice is still relevant to the copyright
status of older works....

"Use of the notice may be important because it informs the public that the
work is protected by copyright, identifies the copyright owner, and shows
the year of first publication. Furthermore, in the event that a work is
infringed, if a proper notice of copyright 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 section 504(c)(2) of the copyright law.
Innocent infringement occurs when the infringer did not realize that the
work was protected."

It is common practice, when adding new material to a pre-existing work, to
include multiple years in the copyright notice (i.e., "1999, 2000"), to
identify the various dates on which various parts of the entire work were
first published (if such parts are themselves copyrightable).

However, U.S. copyright law provides a "penalty" under certain
circumstances for including an erroneous date. The law says: "When the
year date [in the notice] is more than one year later than the year in
which publication first occurred, the work is considered to have been
published without any notice...." Therefore, it would be unwise to include
only the most recent date in a copyright notice and not the original date
as well.

In any case, the above is not legal advice, just some information about
the law that may be helpful. For more information about the law as it
affects writers and others in the technology industries, see

Douglas M. Isenberg
Attorney @ Law
Editor & Publisher,
======================= "Legal Information for
Internet and Technology Professionals"

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