Copyright Symbols You Need to Know

When you are planning on using or creating content for the web, it is important that you have a basic understanding of copyright law. That doesn’t mean you have to take a legal course on the subject. You just have to be aware of the fundamentals that make it less likely that you get into trouble.


Here are a few things you need to know: the different between a copyright and Creative Commons and how to assert or recognize each.

Symbol # 1


Any time the © symbol is present, the content is owned and cannot be used for commercial or sharing purposes without proper permission and credit. If you fail to meet this criteria, the content counts as being plagiarized. This could lead to lawsuits, fines and other consequences, depending on the context in which it was used.

Symbol # 2

While a © stands for a copyright, there is also a ™ for trademark and ® for a registered trademark. They are made with ( c ), ( tm ) and ( r ) in Windows, minus the spaces.

Symbol # 3

Creative Commons has its own symbols. These include attribution, derivatives, share-alike and noncommercial or commercial use. Each one signifies that an image can be used if the specified requirements, set by the creator, are met. Content that is in the public domain does not require any special rules to be listed or followed for use. For attribution, you must provide a credit with the content and link or source. Derivative and share-alike both refer to the presentation of similar or edited content based on the original. Commercial or noncommercial will tell you whether you can use it for a profitable venture. The creator may also have some special requirements to meet, such as telling them you have used the image, and where.

Symbol # 4


Any creative work is automatically copyrighted in the United States under the amended Copyright Act of 1988, as long as the work is created after March 1, 1989. If the work was created prior to that date, the creator or owner must have applied for copyright protection under the new law. This is why so much content prior to that date is within the public domain, as the copyright originally in place expired or it was never placed according to the amended law.

Bonus:  One Tip

It is your responsibility as a creative owner of anything you create to place a copyright symbol upon the work when sharing it. This includes online, where it is easy to steal another’s work. Some websites made for sharing will automatically list it as copyrighted to you to protect themselves from liability. But you should always check, in case your work is plagiarized and you have to show the court that the user was aware of your ownership.


Copyright can be a complicated issue. But as long as you take steps to remember the basics you will be able to protect yourself from the most obvious risks, especially online, where it has become so easy to both have your work stolen and catch instances where it has occurred.

Guest Author is the SEO manager at PsPrint, an company specializing in online printing. PsPrint offers an array of free tools, for example it lets you make your own business cards online.

Image Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

7 thoughts on “Copyright Symbols You Need to Know”

  1. Hey Tom,

    This is a very informative post. With the advent of internet, it has become increasingly easy for people to reproduce content on the web, be it images, videos, poems or any written text. So more and more producers of original content are using copyrights to protect their work.

    It is very important to be aware of the copyright symbols so that we don’t share such copyrighted content and get into trouble related to copyright infringement. Also as creators of content, the onus is on us to protect our content by using the right copyright symbols when we put it online.

    Thanks for sharing these great insights with us.

  2. This is a really great, concise breakdown – people need to know this! I’d prefer people knew that the © is there even when invisible, but I’ve begun marking my work. If it makes people ask what it means or why, that’s a start.

  3. One thing I appreciate about Creative Commons is most of the time a symbol comes with title text that pops up to explain what they symbol means when you hover over it. You can also link to the Creative Commons copyright rules you’re using the way I do in the blog footer.

  4. Excellent post Tom, I think anyone blogging needs to read this as it’s easy to fall foul of copyright laws. Also, with Pinterest now on the scene I can see even more confusion and problems concerning copyright and attributing proper credit to creators.

  5. My question here is.Can someone put a copyright symbol on their work without doing it legally through paper work. Their are pictures with a copyright symbol and the persons name.I know this is not a legal copyright so how can they use the symbol without paying for it?

    1. The copyright symbol is just a symbol, you don’t pay anything for it. As soon as you write something you automatically own the rights to it. Sometimes people do the legal paperwork to get copy rights spelled out on paper, but it isn’t always necessary.

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