Which is better style:

(1) This picture is copyright of John Smith.

(2) This picture is copyright John Smith.

Please explain ...

  • Generally what you see is a telegraphic form such as "This picture copyright John Smith". – Hot Licks Jan 23 '16 at 19:49

"The copyright for this picture is held by (or belongs to) John Smith."

I do not consider either of the two options you offered as being in good form.

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A brief look with the Ngram viewer and online with the google finds that the locution

X is copyright of Y,

(where X is some work and Y is a claimant) is a fairly common usage for

Y holds the copyright to X


the copyright of Y belongs to X.

For instance, the American Society of Civil Engineers warns in its publication Education and continuing development for the civil engineer (1990) that

LOTUS 1-2-3 is copyright of LOTUS Development Corporation.

Of course, literally speaking, the work isn't its copyright, but usage trumps literal-mindedness.

It's harder to search for "is copyright" without the following of, but this form was likely influenced by the US copyright notice,

© 2012 Y

which was mandatory for published works before 1989, and in which the circle-c symbol could be replaced with the word Copyright.

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There is a preferred format for claiming copyright on a work:

Copyright year owner

For example:

Copyright 2016 John Smith

If you're referring to a work by someone else, then don't. Unless you have permission or one of the rare, misunderstood exemptions, you're violating their copyright.

BTW--You don't need to add anything to own the copyright, you're simply notifying people to bolster your claims later.

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If you are John Smith and you want to declare your copyright on a photo you created, you use one of these synonymous phrases:

  • Copyright 2016 John Smith
  • © 2016 John Smith

… replacing the year with the year in which the photo was created.

However, if you are not John Smith and you want to apply a photo credit to a photo that was taken by John Smith — for example, in a publication you are editing — you should use one of these synonymous phrases:

  • Photo by John Smith
  • Photo: John Smith
  • Photo credit: John Smith

If John Smith asked you to include his copyright notice in the photo credit, you may want to use a combination: “Photo by John Smith © 2016 John Smith.” The duplication is necessary because in some cases, the person who took the photo does not own the copyright. For example: “Photo by John Smith © 2016 The New York Times.”

If you are declaring the copyright on a sound recording rather than a photograph, you also need to include the “sound recording copyright” to make the declaration valid worldwide. It looks like this: “℗ 2016 John Smith” and you will also see that combined with the copyright symbol, especially if the author also wrote music or a speech that is the content of the sound recording, like this: “© ℗ 2016 John Smith.”

Ideally, you use the actual glyphs for “©” and “℗” but you can also write “(c)” and “(p)” and lawyers like it just fine.

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