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Copyright symbol

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Title: Copyright symbol  
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Subject: SAMO, Enclosed Alphanumerics, Copyright, 1909 introductions, All rights reserved
Collection: 1909 Introductions, Copyright Law, Typographical Symbols, United States Copyright Law
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Copyright symbol

Copyright symbol

The copyright symbol, or copyright sign, © (a circled capital letter "C"), is the symbol used in copyright notices for works other than sound recordings (which are indicated with the symbol). The use of the symbol is described in United States copyright law,[1] and, internationally, by the Universal Copyright Convention.[2] The symbol is widely recognized, but under the Berne Convention is no longer required to obtain a new copyright in most nations. For instance, the United States eliminated the copyright symbol requirement as of March 1, 1989, but its presence or absence is legally significant on works published previously.

The C stands for copyright.


  • History 1
  • US copyright notice 2
  • Digital representation 3
  • Related symbols 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Prior symbols indicating a work's copyright status are seen in Scottish almanacs of the 1670s; books included a printed copy of the local coat-of-arms to indicate their authenticity.[3]

A copyright notice was first required in the U.S. by the Copyright Act of 1802.[4] It was lengthy: "Entered according to act of Congress, in the year         , by A. B., in the office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington." In general, this notice had to appear on the copyrighted work itself, but in the case of a "work of the fine arts", such as a painting, it could instead be inscribed "on the face of the substance on which [the work of art] shall be mounted".[5] The Copyright Act was amended in 1874 to allow a much shortened notice: "Copyright, 18        , by A. B."[6]

The copyright symbol © was introduced in the United States by a 1954 amendment to the Copyright Act of 1909, section 18.[7][8]

The Copyright Act of 1909 was meant to be a complete rewrite and overhaul of existing copyright law. As originally proposed in the draft of the bill, copyright protection required putting the word "copyright" or a sanctioned abbreviation on the work of art itself. This included paintings, the argument being that the frame was detachable. In conference sessions among copyright stakeholders on the proposed bill, conducted in 1905 and 1906, representatives of artist organizations objected to this requirement, wishing to put no more on the work itself than the artist's name. As a compromise, the possibility was created to add a relatively unintrusive mark, the capital letter C within a circle, to appear on the work itself next to the artist's name, indicating the existence of a more elaborate copyright notice elsewhere that was still to be allowed to be placed on the mounting.[9] Indeed, the version of the bill that was submitted to Congress in 1906, compiled by the Copyright Commission under the direction of the Librarian of Congress, Herbert Putnam, contained a provision that a special copyright symbol, the letter C inclosed within a circle, could be used instead of the word "copyright" or the abbreviation "copr.", but only for a limited category of copyrightable works, including works of art but not ordinary books or periodicals.[10] The formulation of the 1909 Act was left unchanged when it was incorporated in 1946 as title 17 of the United States Code; when that title was amended in 1954, the symbol © was allowed as an alternative to "Copyright" or "Copr." in all copyright notices.[11]

In countries party to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, including the modern-day U.S., a copyright notice is not required to be displayed in order for copyright to be established; rather, the creation of the work automatically establishes copyright.[12] The United States was one of the later accedents to Berne (1989); the majority of nations now belong to Berne, and thus do not require copyright notices to obtain copyright.

US copyright notice

In the United States, the copyright notice required prior to March 1, 1989, consists of:[13]

  • the © symbol, or the word "Copyright" or abbreviation "Copr.";
  • the year of first publication of the copyrighted work; and
  • an identification of the owner of the copyright, either by name, abbreviation, or other designation by which they are generally known.


© 2011 John Smith

The notice was once required in order to receive copyright protection in the United States, but in countries respecting the Berne convention this is no longer the case.[12] The United States joined the Berne Convention effective March 1, 1989.[14]

Digital representation

Because the © symbol has long been unavailable on typewriters and ASCII-based computer systems, it has been common to approximate this symbol with the characters (C).

The character is mapped in Unicode as U+00A9 © copyright sign (HTML © · ©).[15] Unicode also has U+24B8 circled latin capital letter c (HTML ) and U+24D2 circled latin small letter c (HTML ).[16] They are sometimes used as a substitute copyright symbol where the actual copyright symbol is not available in the font or in the character set, for example, in some Korean code pages.

On Windows it may be entered by holding the Alt while typing the numbers 0 1 6 9 on the numeric keypad. It can be entered on a Mac by holding the Option key and then pressing the "g" key. On Linux, it can be obtained with the O C ComposeKey sequence.

Related symbols

  • The sound recording copyright symbol is the symbol (the capital letter P enclosed by a circle), and is used to designate copyright in a sound recording.[17]
  • The copyleft symbol is a backwards capital letter C in a circle (copyright symbol © mirrored). Because it is unavailable on Unicode, it can be approximated with an open O character between parentheses (Ɔ) or, if supported by the application, by combining it with the character U+20DD combining enclosing circle ↄ⃝. It has no legal meaning.[18]
  • The registered trademark symbol is the symbol ® (the capital letter R enclosed by a circle), and is used in some jurisdictions to designate a trademark that has been registered in an official office of record (such as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in the United States).
  • The non-obligatory symbol used in a mask work protection notice is Ⓜ (capital letter M enclosed in a circle).[19]
  • ⓗ, circled Latin small letter h symbol, is sometimes used in Welsh language contexts instead of © to represent the word hawlfraint 'copyright', for example, here.

See also


  1. ^ 17 U.S.C. § 401
  2. ^ Universal Copyright Convention, Article III, §1. (Paris text, July 24, 1971.)
  3. ^ Mann, Alastair J.; Kretschmer, Martin; Bently, Lionel (2010). "A Mongrel of Early Modern Copyright". In Deazley, Ronan. Privilege and property: essays on the history of copyright. Open Book Publishers.  
  4. ^ "Copyright Law Revision Study Number 7, page 6" (PDF). United States Copyright Office. United States Government Printing Office. Retrieved 14 June 2013. 
  5. ^ Copyright Act of 1870, §97.
  6. ^ 1874 Amendment to the Copyright Act of 1870, §1.
  7. ^ Copyright Act of 1909, §18.
  8. ^ Copyright Law Revision: Study 7: Notice of Copyright (PDF). Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. 1960. p. 11. 
  9. ^ Arguments before the Committees on Patents of the Senate and House of Representatives, conjointly, on the bills S. 6330 and H.R. 19853, to amend and consolidate the acts respecting copyright. June 6–9, 1906.  
  10. ^ "Proposed Copyright Legislation".  
  11. ^ An Act to amend title 17, United States Code, entitled "Copyrights", Pub.L. 83–743, 68 Stat. 1030, enacted August 31, 1954.
  12. ^ a b Molotsky, Irvin (October 21, 1988). "Senate Approves Joining Copyright Convention".  
  13. ^ 17 U.S.C. § 401(b)
  14. ^ Circular 38A: International Copyright Relations of the United States (PDF). U.S. Copyright Office. 2014. p. 2. Retrieved March 5, 2015. 
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ Stephen Fishman (2010), "The Copyright Symbol", The Public Domain, p. 356,  
  18. ^ Hall, G. Brent (2008). Open Source Approaches in Spatial Data Handling. Springer. p. 29.   Additional ISBN 978-3-540-74830-4. See Open Source Approaches in Spatial Data Handling at Google Books, page 29.
  19. ^ "Federal Statutory Protection for Mask Works (Copyright Circular 100)" (PDF). United States Copyright Office. September 2012. p. 5. Retrieved 22 March 2014. 

External links

  • How to make copyright symbol on Windows/Mac/Linux/iPhone
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