A copyright notice is a notice placed on a work of authorship stating the copyright owner of the work and the year in which it was created. A copyright notice is no longer required for works under current United States law, though it is useful to do so and quite commonly performed. Since past laws required that copyright notices be present for all works that were published, the notices appearing on all works before January 1, 1978 are still relevant today.
Under the 1976 Copyright Act, which was later put into use in 1978, copyright owners were given further exclusive use of their work (remaining in their estate for 70 years after their death). As long as a copyright notice was placed on a published work, this right was granted to the owner.
Later, the 1988 Berne Convention Implementation Act further changed United States copyright law. Under this amendment, the copyright notice was made optional for all works that are published on and after March 1, 1989. As a result, if a copyright owner failed to include the notice on a piece of published work, it would still be protected.
Today, the copyright notice acts more as an identification of copyright ownership, informing people that the work is indeed copyrighted and giving the year in which it was created, than as a vital component of copyright ownership. Though it is not necessary, it greatly benefits the author of a work. If a copyright infringement case goes to court, the court will look for a copyright mark on the work. If it exists, the court will place no weight to the defendant’s claim of ignorance that the work was copyrighted.