When do You Need a Copyright Symbol?

Woman sitting at desk with text overlay "When do You Need a Copyright Symbol?"

I’m not sure if copycat theft of content is on the rise…

Or if we’re all just more aware of it.

But I can’t tell you how many questions I get about when you need to use a copyright symbol on your content everyday.

Heck, even my own content, products, names, content etc has been stolen, copied and mimicked by other people in my space.

Yep, I’m a lawyer – which means they’re a lawyer too 🤣. If it happens to me, it really can happen to anyone.

But there are some easier fixes than others — so I’m excited to dive into this week’s reader Q&A all about it! 

Let’s jump into our legal Q&A sesh! 👇

The Question // Lara asks,

Can you explain how to copyright stuff and what to copyright?

The Answer //

First let’s break down what falls under “copyright” and what falls under “trademark” (for what we do):

  • Copyright = literary works, things like books, blog posts, social posts, course content, PDFs, eBooks, videos, webinars, etc.
  • Trademark = business names, logos, taglines, program names, product names.

So if you have a piece of content that properly qualifies for copyright protection (ie, it’s original AND it’s fixed in a tangible medium of expression, aka you’ve gotten it out of your brain and actually created the thing) then you can submit it to the US Copyright Office for official registration.

But what to copyright is a whole other animal.

If we went around copyrighting every single piece of content we created…. well, here at Sam Vander Wielen LLC, I’d need an entire wing of an office building overflowing with full-time staff working around the clock, submitting copyright apps 😂 (#🙋🏽‍♀️pumpsoutlotsofcontent)

I’ll say the same thing to you I always say to our customers…

💼 Lawyer Sam Says:

Copyright everything! It’s the only way to enforce protection in Federal court or damages if someone steals it from you!

🎉 Normal everyday Sam (the more fun one, to be honest):

That’s crazy and not practical. My motto? Register the key stuff. Your money makers. The stuff that would hurt your business if someone stole it.

Do you have legal protection without registering?

Absolutely! You’re entitled to something called “common law” protection from the moment you create something and “fix it in a tangible medium”.

But you won’t get very much enforcement rights out of your common law right to your work — you can’t sue them in Federal court, which means you don’t get very much moolah or damages for what they did. And a bunch of other missed benefits.

So to sum it up:

Registration is absolutely the best option, but it’s also not practical to register everything you create. 

Keep in mind: if someone steals your social content, most platforms have their own enforcement division where they’ll take it down (but you still won’t get money). If someone puts something on their website that’s yours, you can try to do a DMCA takedown or contact Google and their host.

You have options. They’re not all created equal, that’s all.

If you’re not sure whether you should register something or not, consult a local-to-you intellectual property attorney. I’m not telling you whether or not to register. As always, this isn’t legal advice.

Was this helpful?! Hit reply and let me know!

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Hope this was helpful! Off to see if you’ve commented yet to let me know 🙂


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