Jesper Tverskov, January 25, 2007

Don't use copyright all over your website

Copyright statements can be necessary also in web pages but should be used sparsely. Boilerplate statements only add noise to most web pages and they discourage some websites from linking to our resources.

This article is not about copyright contra copyleft but about to which extend we should use copyright statements in our web pages and how. For an introduction to copyright legislation Wikipedia is a good place to start [1].

1. Law and quality

We have copyright to our stuff even if we don't use copyright statements but we will stand stronger in court in borderline cases, if our material has a copyright statement. That is how I understand the copyright laws.

An important argument for using at least one copyright statement at our website is that it adds a flavor of seriousness to our web pages. With copyright statements a website signals that it contains something of interest to some.

2. Linking and usability

On the web we should also consider that we want other websites to link to our web pages. We even want them to link deep as it is called. At least that is what the web is or should be all about and what I fight for.

Copyright statements in web pages have absolutely nothing to do with linking, but copyright statements all over a website's resources strongly discourage many websites from linking to them.

Also remember that web pages should be as simple, as bare, as clean as possible. Put full focus on your core business. Put full focus on the main task of that particular page. Even the smallest boilerplate statements and links add noise to most web pages.

3. Make the web clean

In new books we find a copyright statement in one of the first pages, in newspapers and magazines they can be hard to find even if the exist, and there are different traditions and practices in films, music, etc.

Considering the conditions of the web, that the visitor need to use a lot of energy finding out what a webpage is all about, how it fits into collections of other pages, how to navigate, et cetera, web pages should avoid the obvious, the extraneous, the "this is absolutely not necessary".

If each and every webpage has a copyright statement, what do we know then? That more than one percent of the web is a waste of time. That is what those statements alone add up to in useless information

4. Copyright at xmlplease

I have many unique and original resources at my website. But one copyright statement at the homepage is more than enough in my case. One day I will maybe make it into a link explaining in more detail that my web pages are made to be resources but I don't want obvious misuse.

My copyright statement is on the homepage even though I strongly believe that most websites in need of a copyright statement should not place it in the homepage but in a little used far off page like some "About" the website page.

I use the homepage because the copyright statement has two pieces of important information for my first time visitors [2]. My copyright statement looks like this:

Copyright © 2000-2007 by Jesper Tverskov

When first-timers arrive at my website, they have a problem finding out what the website is all about, who or what is behind, have long time has it existed, is it still alive and updated. My copyright statement clearly indicates that the website is seasoned and updated and that a one man army is behind.

I am so worried that my copyright statement at the homepage could discourage some websites from linking that I have found it necessary to clarify what should be obvious in the tagline: "Free web resources for all to use and to link to".

5. Rule of thumb ©

For known companies, organizations, newspapers, periodicals, etc., there is as a rule of thumb no need to use copyright statements. Not even once at the homepage. If you feel a need to have such a statement place it at some remote "about" the website page, in order to waste the time of as few users as possible.

If your one and only copyright statement links to more detailed copyright information, that is fine if needed. But please don't clutter up all your web pages with all sorts of statements and the same links over and over again. Any statement or link not extremely necessary or very useful for most users should never make it to the web.

Footnotes

[1]

Wikipedia article about copyright.

[2]

It is clear from my website's log files, that most users are first-timers arriving from search engines mostly Google. Many websites have relatively few regular users. Even people writing to me, thanking me for an article, I don't expect to see again soon if ever.

Updated 2009-06-12