In the United States, copyrights exist to promote arts and culture. Copyright also protects your digital assets—your design, written content, branded imagery (e.g. a color you’ve created), photography, and more.
But exactly what do you need to do to protect your online assets? There are some easy steps you can take to protect yourself from digital theft or exploitation.
First and foremost, adding a copyright notice on your work is an excellent way to claim your properties. Adding a © symbol, next to the date the item was created and your name or company name, will cover you in most cases.
Note that you should put the date for when the property was created, and add a date for each time the property is updated.
Example: Your small business, Happy Inc., took a photo in 2005, and you want to post it online. At the bottom of the photo, you should put;
© 2005 Happy Inc.
Now, let’s say you edit the photo in 2015. In the photo, you should put;
© 2005, 2015 Happy Inc.
This is so that if someone finds the original 2005 version and tries to claim it, and you only have the edited version, you can argue that your copyright mark claims the original work from 2005.
It’s also common to see people “updating” their copyright marks on their websites or properties. For example, after the New Year, your company has the impression that editing your website copyright mark to say “© 2016 Happy Inc.” when you actually want to keep the older date on your content.
Again—this shows that you have the older version of that content. If someone takes your content that’s marked for 2015, and yours is marked 2016, your mark doesn’t hold up as well.
That being said, there are cases where some people check a copyright date to see if a website is being kept up to date. If someone sees the older date, that person might assume the content is outdated or the company doesn’t put enough effort into online assets. No worries—there’s a solution.
Let’s say your company’s website contents go as far back as 2010. On your website, you can put;
© 2010 – 2016 Happy Inc.
This now shows your visitors that, yes, your content is protected properly, but yes, you are keeping it up to date.
Okay, deep breath. Yes, it’s a lot of info to process, but it’s important to know if you’re any sort of digital illustrator or graphic designer.
By the way—you may find it a relief to learn that you don’t have to put a copyright mark on any of your work. Website copyright is also optional. But, for added safety, it’s recommended to take these small steps to protect your work in case something happens.