Time to Update Your Web Site Copyright Date

I wrote this up for the support forum for our web content management system, QuantumCMS, and thought it worth repeating here. The writing style is a little different considering the different audience. Think of this as a reminder to all of you who include a date on your web site in any way — I absolutely judge whether your site is relevant by how out of date the copyright year is in the footer. I also look at any other timestamps I can see (blog post dates, comment dates, etc.) for clues to the age of content.

The original post:

It’s that time of the year where you should take a few minutes to log in to QuantumCMS and update the copyright date on your web site. If you don’t remember where it is, for most of our clients it’s a Site Property that you can edit. If you don’t remember how to edit that property or don’t have your documentation handy, this tutorial can help: Adding a Site Property (it also works if you just want to edit the existing property).

Why is it on your site?

Perhaps you only have a copyright statement on your site because we included it in our design, perhaps you have it because your legal counsel suggested it, perhaps you only have it because you’ve seen it everywhere else. Since I am not a lawyer, doling out legal advice isn’t in the scope of this post. You can ask your own legal counsel about how declaring a copyright protects your content.

I am writing this from the perspective of U.S. companies, although I know some of you reading this are not U.S. companies. In that case, I suggest you check your own country’s laws on copyright.

If you are more inclined to track this information down on your own, you may want to take a look at the U.S. government Copyright.gov site, specifically the page “What Does Copyright Protect?” which links to a PDF file (“What Works Are Protected?“) containing the following statement:

No publication or registration or other action in the Copyright Office is required to secure copyright.

If you are adamant about registering your web site with the U.S. Copyright Office you should grab a copy of “Copyright Registration for Online Works” (provided as a PDF file).

How else is the copyright date used?

I’m glad you asked.

Many web site users see the copyright date as a quick cue to how fresh the content is, even telling them if the site is stale. If you are visiting a site with a date of 2009 (and it is now 2011) in the footer, you might think that nobody has touched the site in two years. And you might be right.

Many sites use the copyright with a year span (1998-2011, for example) to demonstrate how long a site or organization has been in existence. This may not impart any added benefit if you are pursuing somebody who has stolen your content, but it does at least indicate to users that you have been around for a while, are current, and probably know a good attorney.

Don’t wait too long to update copyright date on your site. If your site claims to be from 2010 then it is at least over a year old, and at most only a couple weeks old. Remove that confusion by taking a few minutes to update it.

As always, if you need any help just give us a call or send us a note.

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