In the lines:

Copyright (C) 1994 Tom
Copyright (C) 1995, 1996 Cruise
Copyright (C) 1997, 1998 Louis

Here, what's the original meaning of "Copyright"? And why the mark "(C)"?

And, what is indeed granted by the Copyright string? For example:

Copyright (C) 1994 Tom

Does this mean that Tom has the right of copy, e.g. copy something mentioned to everyone in the world in the year of 1994? And after the year 1994 he won't have the copy right anymore?

What's the difference between the following?

  1. Copyright (C) 2000–2010 Lily Ponder
  2. Copyright 2000–2010 Lily Ponder

And, Can I write something like

Copyright (C) 2000-3000 Lily Ponder

to protect the copyright forever?

  • 9
    −1. You are asking the role of copyright notices. It is a question about law, not a question about English. – Tsuyoshi Ito Dec 7 '10 at 3:18

Wikipedia describes it in some detail:

Copyright are exclusive statutory rights to exercise control over copying and other exploitation of the works for a specific period of time. The copyright owner is given two sets of rights: an exclusive, positive right to copy and exploit the copyrighted work, or license others to do so, and a negative right to prevent anyone else from doing so without consent, with the possibility of legal remedies if they do.

Basically, any work someone produces (e.g. a book, a song, some software, etc) may not be copied by anyone else without the author's permission.

The year in which the work is produced, as noted in the copyright declaration, is important, because copyright only lasts for a certain number of years, which varies by jurisdiction. Hence lots of old books are now available on the internet for free, because their copyright has expired.

"©" (often written as "(C)") is just an abbreviation for "copyright". See also the article on the copyright symbol.

  • +1: Only addition is © for the actual symbol itself. – Robusto Dec 6 '10 at 12:37
  • @Robusto: changed accordingly. – Steve Melnikoff Dec 6 '10 at 12:43
  • 2
    And it's because the web developer didn't know you write © like so: © in html. – OneProton Dec 6 '10 at 19:27
  • If I got it, "Copyright (C) 2000–2010 Lily Ponder" is redundant and "(C) 2000–2010 Lily Ponder" is the same as "Copyright 2000–2010 Lily Ponder"? – Olivier Pons Dec 8 '10 at 17:54
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    A related question, if I may please. Do we need to necessarily add 'All Rights Reserved' as well or just the copyright symbol ? The reason why I'm asking this is because I see many websites mention this in their website footer section. – boddhisattva Sep 25 '15 at 3:27

To expand on Steve's answer:

©2001 means the countdown to the end of copyright starts in 2001.

©2001-2010 means the countdown to the end of copyright starts in 2010 (at least for some of the content)

Websites use the latter because their content and construction generally changes frequently. Things are added and removed on a regular basis, so the copyright on the new content/coding/images is being refreshed.

  • I think this add-on to the main answer is important. +1 – Xonatron Dec 19 '13 at 20:37
  • One example: The Sherlock Holmes characters and stories fall in various copyright states, depending on when they were introduced. Most of the stories and characters are now in public domain, but some late stories are still under copyright. – Lynn Crumbling Mar 14 '15 at 23:32

These are copyright notices. They simply provide notice that the copyright is claimed to have originated at a particular time and it is claimed the copyright belongs to a particular person. These notices have no affect on the actual legal copyright anymore (at least in the vast majority of countries). Copyrights inhere as soon as a creative work is placed in a fixed form in every major country.

The (C) mark simply indicates that copyright is claimed. It was required in all but sound recordings in many countries prior to around 1990. Its use is continued largely because there is no reason to stop it.

Multiple years or a range of years indicates that some content acquired copyright in each of the years included.

Again, this has no effect on the legal copyright status anymore. The only possible exception would be countries that have laws that penalize copyright holders for affirmatively misleading others about the copyright status of their work. So you can screw it up and suffer, but you cannot add anything to your legal rights.

If you want information on the legal scope of copyright, check our the copyright office's FAQ. It's US-centric, but other countries are mostly the same because most of the rules are harmonized by International agreement.

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