Copyright Notices

As part of my burgeoning interest in copyright issues, I’ve been paying more attention to the copyright notices included in various publications. Unlike the strangely long copyright notice that I expressed my amazement at earlier, here are some rather common ones that nonetheless display remarkable diversity.

  • Here’s a pithy copyright notice that is deemed sufficient by its jurist-author.

“Copyright © 2005 by Noah Feldman. All rights reserved.” From Noah Feldman‘s  Divided by God: America’s Church-State Problem.

  • Compare that to this “everything but the kitchen sink” copyright notice below.

“All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form and by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review. Scanning, uploading, and electronic distribution of this book or the facilitation of such without the permission of the publisher is prohibited. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated. Any member of educational institutions wishing to photocpy part of all of the work for classroom use, or anthology, should send inquires to Grove/Atlantic, Inc., 841 Broadway, New York, NY 10003 or” From Roya Hakakian’s Assassins of the Turquoise Palace.

Do you find the juxtaposition of the elaborately laid-out restrictions on the users — the “no ifs, ands, or buts” tone — and the exhortation to support the author’s rights to be rather dissonant? Isn’t it like reading a detailed list of instructions left to a babysitter which includes both “Talking on the telephone, watching TV, and eating food in the fridge or the facilitation of such without the permission of the bank (which owns this house) is prohibited” and “Please know that your support of these restrictions are encouraged and appreciated by the parents of the baby.”?

  • Here’s a much less restrictive copyright notice, which reserves all its authors’ rights but then immediately make exemptions in those rights.

“All rights reserved. For noncommercial purposes only, this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior permission in writing from the publisher, provided it is reproduced accurately, the source of the material is identified, and the copyright status is acknowledged.” From NISO‘s Making Good on the Promise of ERM: A Standards and Best Practices Discussion Paper.

  • Here’s a notice from the UK.  How different it is! Consider the highfalutin and far reaching language on author’s”moral right”.

“All rights reserved. The moral right of the author has been asserted.
Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser” From Richard Fletcher’s The Cross and the Crescent.

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3 Responses to Copyright Notices

  1. adriennelindsey says:

    Question for you! Do you know much about the copyright laws on illustrations in old books? I have a brilliant illustrtion that i want to use publicly. According to copyright law for literature, it is public domain after 1927. Only i dont quite buy it. Would an illustration apply similarly? The publishers are no longer in business, and the printing was done in Great Britain. Thoughts?

    • Hi Adreienne!

      I’m so excited you asked me this question! First a little disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, and nothing I say here should be construed as legal advice. That said , here’s what I, a complete lay person, think about your question.

      More stuff that I don’t know & can’t do: I don’t know anything about UK copyright law. However, I believe it is the country in which the use happens whose laws govern that use. This means that if you’re contemplating re-using this illustration for, say, a book that you will issue in the US, then US intellectual property law is what prevails. Under US copyright, illustrations and text enjoy the same length of protection. The bright-line rule about public domain works is that if a work is published before 1923, it is in the public domain (regardless of the work’s country of origin). While there are works published after 1923 that are also in the public domain, the pre-1923 vs. 1923 & thereafter is the clearest, least complicated delineation. Peter Hirtle has created an excellent guide for determining whether a work is in the public domain. Check it out here, Copyright gets complicated fast, huh?

      • Anonymous says:

        Good info! Thank You. Im getting the feeling that the piece i want to use is not quite “legal”. A bummer, indeed, but i would much prefer to find out BEFORE i get invested. The link is a wonderful reference. I will bookmark it!!

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