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Should I update the copyright notice every January? as in

© ACME Corp 2011

I'm not asking about how or whether to claim copyright at all (that is dealt with here), but whether the year has any importance.

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You should always write the word "Copyright", not merely rely on the & copy ; symbol. –  Charles Jun 22 '12 at 2:28
    
@Charles - why should you? The symbol © means copyright. It's pointless if you have to write the word copyright as well...? –  zigojacko Jan 31 at 14:44

4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

The date is supposed to be when it was published. So if content is ongoing then it could be a range or it could be the date of the most recent revision. If the site has had no changes then it should be the earliest date.

Some people prefer it to be recent to look fresh, others prefer to make it as long ago as possible to show they got there first. Basically there is no convention and as you mentioned in your question it means absolutely nothing legally so you can put whatever you like.

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For most, the copyright date could also be seen as a way to determine if the site is maintained or not. If the site has been around for a while, putting the full range of years would be an easy way to show longevity. Also, regardless of the intent of the copyright/date, if its listed as a few years old, the perception would be that the site isn't maintained and you could get traffic bounces as a result. –  SubTypical Jan 25 '11 at 15:46
    
Most sites simply automatically print the current year or their starting year to current year, so it doesn't really help the user determine if the site is maintained or not. There are better indicators for that IMO. I personally think you should be honest to the user about when a page was published/updated. If the content is a few years old, let the user know. Minimize bounce rates by actually updating a site rather than just giving the illusion of maintaining the site. That said, the standard founding - now copyright line is more convenient in a site-wide template. –  Lèse majesté Jan 26 '11 at 12:57
    
Warning! The use of date ranges, though common, has not been tested in courts. It may not give full protection! –  Charles Jun 22 '12 at 2:28
    
Read the link in the original question. The listing of dates at all is purely informational, and not legally required whatsoever. Copyright is automatically in force when you create something. –  JamesRyan Jun 22 '12 at 18:20

The inclusion of the date is not mandatory in all countries, but the date, and the name, along with the symbol (legal device) form part of the formal assertion of rights. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_notice

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To my knowledge, JamesRyan is right in that it means nothing as legality goes. Having said that, I've found that it does tend to have an effect on users.

Back in the day, it was commonplace to indicate content freshness via the "Website Last Updated" blurb. Since that's no longer the rage, I've had many a user refer to using the copyright date as a rudimentary freshness check.

Bearing that in mind, I think it's prudent to keep it updated but there's no need to update it manually. It's pretty easy to handle with a bit of server code:

In PHP:

&copy; 2009 – <?php echo date('Y'); ?> YourSite.com
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If you have a website that’s been up for more than a year, you should include the date range of how long it has been live. For example, if you put your website online in 2001, your copyright should look like this: © ACME Corp 2001-2011

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Any reasons why you say this? I don't see how that would affect the copyright of the content. –  John Conde Jan 25 '11 at 15:01

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