76. Can I use the © without registering?

Can I use the © without registering

Listen Now:

This week, we’re talking all about if you can legally use the © symbol, known as the copyright symbol, whether or not you have anything registered.

In this episode, you’ll hear… 

  • When you can (and can’t) use the © symbol
  • What the © symbol does
  • What to do when it’s not practical to copyright everything
  • My © Copyright Formula for content protection

Listener Henry asks:

“Do you have to have something registered with the US copyright office to use that delightful “©” symbol?”

No, you don’t have to have anything registered! You can use the © symbol with or without having registered the content that you’re putting it on. If you do register it, you keep using the same symbol.

Does the copyright symbol give me the same protection as a registered trademark?

Just slapping the © symbol on your content is not the same as registering your content. You don’t have the same level of protection simply because you used the symbol. While you can use it, there are additional protections you get from registering your content. I got into this in detail in Episode 44 of the podcast.

How do I protect my content without registering everything I make?

© + Year of Publication + Your Name/Business Name

Use this on every piece of content whether registered or not. It’s a great way to put people on notice that you created something and you are claiming ownership to it. It also helps to ensure that someone else can’t claim they created it first. If you want to learn more about what you can and can’t do with the various legal symbols, I go into them in depth in Episode 44 of the podcast. But protecting your business is so much more than just copyrights and trademarks. Download my free Legally Legit Checklist where I teach you about registering your business, business insurance, scope of practice, and how to get paid.

Listen to On Your Terms on your favorite podcast platform

Listen to the show on your favorite podcast player and be sure to follow, and leave a review to help introduce the show to more online business owners just like you!

Resources Discussed in This Episode

If you’re ready to legally protect and grow your online business today, save your seat in my free workshop so you can learn how to take the simple legal steps to protect the business you’ve worked so hard to build. Click here to watch the free workshop so you can get legally legit right now!

Episode Transcript

Download Episode Transcript

Sam Vander Wielen: Hey there, and welcome back to another episode of On Your Terms and this series of Sam’s Sidebar, where we tackle your essential questions about starting and growing a legally protected online business in ten minutes or less.

So, this week you’ll get a legal tip all about whether or not you’re allowed to use that fun little C with the circle around it, otherwise known as the copyright symbol, or the copyright emoji if you have an iPhone.

So, this week’s question was submitted by listener Henry. Henry asked the very good question, Do you have to have something registered with the U.S. Copyright Office to use that delightful copyright symbol?

Well, first of all, Henry, I love that you called it delightful. So, here’s the deal, no. No, you don’t have to have something registered to use that copyright symbol. Does that qualify me for shortest lawyer answer to a question ever? I feel like I should kind of get an award for that one.

You can use the copyright symbol with or without having registered your content that you’re putting it on. If you haven’t registered your content with the United States Copyright Office, you can still use the copyright symbol. If you do go ahead and register your content with the U.S. Copyright Office, you use the same symbol. There’s no new symbol available to you.

There’s a big but here, a huge but, just slapping the copyright symbol on your content, or your documents, your freebies, your videos is not the same as actually registering your content. It’s not equivalent. So, it’s not like if I register or don’t register, I get the same level of protection. No, no. Henry’s good question was about whether or not he could use that delightful copyright symbol, the C with the circle around it. But it’s not about whether or not it’s equal.

So, here’s the deal, you get additional protection from registering your content, your course materials, your videos, your PDFs, your audio lessons, podcast episodes, blog post than if you just put the copyright symbol on your stuff without registering. So, you definitely get additional legal protection from registering. I go into this in way more detail in Episode 44 of the podcast, so you can head back and check that one out.

But I’ve got one more big but if you’re willing to hear me out. It’s also not practical. Like, I’m a businesswoman at the end of the day, I say this all the time. And there’s like lawyer Sam and normal Sam. And normal Sam is around, like, way more often than lawyer Sam, thank goodness. But it’s also not practical to register every single piece of content that you create in your business. Could you imagine, I would have to have a full time, full staff to register every single piece of content that I put out there. I’m a content machine.

So, what do we do then in those cases? If I can’t register every piece of content and I know that registering gives me additional protection, but it’s also not practical, what do I do?

What you do is use what I call my copyright formula. So, that’s where you use the C with the circle around it, the symbol, because now you know that you can use that even if you haven’t registered, followed by the year of publication. So, that’s the year that you first created this thing.

It’s what lawyers will call you fixed it in a tangible medium of expression. So, in other words, you kind of created this thing. It’s not just living in your brain. Now, it’s living on a piece of paper, in a Google Doc, on your website, whatever, on Instagram.

So, the year of publication, followed by your name, or if you’ve registered a business, if you have a business, put your business’s name. So, again, you would use my copyright formula to put on the bottom of any documents. You should put this on the bottom of everything, whether you register or not. But if you haven’t registered stuff, you still want to use this copyright formula on the bottom of documents and videos and all that kind of stuff. C with a circle, year of publication, your name/business name.

So, if I created a freebie today, I would put C with the circle around it 2022 Sam Vander Wielen LLC, because that’s the name of my company and that’s the name of the company that owns the content. Because, remember, if we have an LLC, we want to put ourselves under that LLC’s protection. So, the content that we’ve created now is under the business’s name, and that’s smart for you, so you want to have that. And I would put that on the bottom of every single page of every single thing that I create.

It’s a really good way to put people on notice that you’ve created something and you’re claiming ownership to it. You’re declaring a date stamp, so that four years from now, they can’t say that they wrote it first.

There are so many things that you can and can’t do with all the different intellectual property symbols, like the registered trademark symbol, the TM, the SM, the copyright symbol, and that’s why I actually did an entire podcast episode for you all about what the intellectual property symbols are, what they mean, when you can use them, and when you can’t, and how they actually work to protect you. So, that’s Episode 44 of my podcast, On Your Terms. Make sure you go back and you listen to that one if you haven’t yet.

It’s also why I teach about, not only the symbols, but how to actually protect your intellectual property inside of my signature program, the Ultimate Bundle. I teach all of my members how to legally protect their content, how to use other people’s content safely, and when it’s the right time to register your trademarks and your copyrights. So, protecting your online business is so much more than just copyright and trademarks. I want you to download your free, legally legit checklist where I teach you about registering your business, going over business insurance, scope of practice, and how to get paid.

Thank you so much for joining me for Sam’s Sidebar. You can find the links to everything I talked about in today’s mini episode down below. Check out the show notes for those related blog posts, resources, and my full episodes of On Your Terms. As always, if you want me to answer your question on a future episode of Sam’s Sidebar, just make sure you submit it using the link below. I’ve got everything linked down below for you. With that, I can’t wait to chat with you next week.

Thanks so much for listening to the On Your Terms Podcast. Make sure to follow on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you like to listen to podcasts. You can also check out all of our podcast episodes, show notes, links, and more at samvanderwielen.com/podcast.

You can learn more about legally protecting your business and take my free legal workshop, Five Steps to Legally Protect and Grow Your Online Business, at samvanderwielen.com. And to stay connected and follow along, follow me on Instagram, @samvanderwielen, and send me a DM to say hi.

Just remember that although I am a attorney, I am not your attorney and I am not offering you legal advice in today’s episode. This episode and all of my episodes are informational and educational only. It is not a substitute for seeking out your own advice from your own lawyer. And please keep in mind that I can’t offer you legal advice. I don’t ever offer any legal services. But I think I offer some pretty good information.



  • Read Sam’s Blog for the latest legal tips, podcast episodes & behind the scenes of building her seven-figure business.
  • Listen to our customer stories to see how getting legally legit has helped 1,000s of entrepreneurs grow their own businesses.



  • Kajabi // use Kajabi to sell your course, program, or even build your entire website. Get a 30-day free trial with my link.
  • SamCart // what I use for my checkout pages and payment processing and LOVE. And no, not because it’s my name.
  • ConvertKit // what I use to build my email list, send emails to my list, and create opt-in forms & pages.

DISCLAIMER: Although Sam is an attorney she doesn’t practice law and can’t give you legal advice. All episodes of On Your Terms are educational and informational only. The information discussed here isn’t legal advice and isn’t intended to be. The info you hear here isn’t a substitute for seeking legal advice from your own attorney.

© 2022 Sam Vander Wielen LLC | All Rights Reserved | Any use of this intellectual property owned by Sam Vander Wielen LLC may not be used in connection with the sale or distribution of any content (free or paid, written or verbal), product, and/or service by you without prior written consent from Sam Vander Wielen LLC.

AFFILIATE LINKS: Some of the links we share here may be affiliate links, which means we may make a small financial reward for referring you, without any cost difference to you. You’re not obligated to use these links, but it does help us to share resources. Thank you for supporting our business!

On Your Terms is a production of Nova Media

Join The Conversation

So What Do you think?

Share Your Thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Register for my FREE legal training

5 Steps To Legally Protect & Grow Your Online Business


You May also like