University Web Developers

University Web Developers

The Purpose of Copyright Notices on University Websites?

I've been thinking a little bit about copyright notices, and what they are actually for (and if they're even strictly necessary). This is the post that got me thinking about this:


I'd like to throw out a few possibilities, and I'd love to hear your comments on these as well as suggestions for others.

  1. A copyright notice makes it so that legally no one can copy my content. This one doesn't really hold water. Since 1989, it sounds like this isn't a requirement (from the link above): "In fact, you don’t even need the notice to claim copyright; the law eliminated the requirement of public notice in 1989."
  2. A copyright notice informs people that they shouldn't copy my content. This seems a bit more reasonable, though I think most people realize that copying things verbatim from other sites isn't legal anyway.
  3. A copyright notice shows when pages were last updated, and if they're being cared for or not. Now we're getting into usability and credibility.  Most timely content like blogs or news posts will have dates on them anyway, but people like to know that other informational pages are taken care of.  I would guess that most site visitors don't realize that the copyright date and page content don't really have anything to do with each other on most websites (being edited and maintained by different people in separate places).
  4. A copyright notice signals that you are at the bottom of the page, and that everything has loaded. I never would have thought of this: "Google famously did not have a copyright notice during test but put one on so people would realize their simple page had loaded. People were waiting for the website to load because they were used to big pages with lots of content." (from  I think this is largely taken care of by modern web design, as there would be other items in the footer and other visual signals that you've reached the bottom.

Out of all of these, #3 seems to me to be the most important. So, what I'm leaning toward now isn't getting rid of the copyright, but thinking of it primarily as a seal of "this website contains timely information." With that in mind, I'm going to be extra vigilant about keeping the copyrights at the bottom of my pages at the current year (programmatically, preferably), and making it visible instead of trying to tuck it away somewhere in 5 point font.


Has anyone else come to similar conclusions? Am I off base here?

Views: 224

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Copyrights are intrinsic from the moment content is created. So technically, no, there is absolutely no legal requirement to display it on the website. In the case of content theft, the defense never comes down to "well, there wasn't a copyright notice on the page." At the very least, it only makes clear when the content was created, which is what those cases come down to (who stole from who, which was created first). But, with our IT infrastructures, we can prove the date of content creation many other ways (not to mention the simple text itself can be easily manipulated).


More than anything, I've always looked at this sort of element as a "feel good feature" that is there to satisfy administrative and legal folks who don't know better. It's one line at the bottom of the page in the footer. It's not hurting user experience and I don't have to go out of my way for it, so it'll sit there and do it's "job" for now.

Stephen, interesting to read this, since we came to the exact same conclusion in our offices the other day. Everyone agreed it was an unnecessary formality, but that updating it to 2011 showed that we were keeping things up to date, or <ahem>, trying to...


That said, I'd be happy to see a design that didn't require it. It certainly seems like an artifact of the print world.

I agree with where you're taking this conversation, Stephen!  Related to #3, I was going to sarcastically reply that they are for institutions/companies to show that bit of code on their page/site was last touched somewhere in the middle of the Bush Administration...but you're right.  If you've written it, drawn it, recorded it, etc., it's your content (and you hold copyright) until/unless you say otherwise.  "Otherwise" potentially including legal disclaimers that show who rights have been assigned to, or rights given away by your acceptance of various terms and conditions for using ??? to get content out on the Internet.


A bigger, more interesting question on this subject (to me) is not what you see on the screen, but all of the code that lurks behind the scenes.  I don't know if I know a web developer alive who hasn't either "borrowed" bits of someone else's code or at bare-minimum copied, de-constructed, and then reconstructed it to suit their own purposes.  Reverse-engineering the UFO, if you will.  :-)  It is commonplace for people to do this in the web development community!  That said, have you ever heard of instances where violation of copyright was challenged related to page/template code? Outside of CMS, of course, since those folks are selling you something proprietary that is a little different.



Interesting points Sir! We had this talk during our redesign last year but in the end it was a moot point as the guidelines for it were past down from campus central as well as a requirement for a page last updated date. (Our campus requirements are

From my departments point of view we were going to go with a page last updated date and not the copyright as using the copyright only for currency seemed redundant. That said I do believe our current requirements of " ©YYYY SIU Board of Trustees" may be more of a political statement from a divided campus than even an attempt to show currency of data.



Latest Activity

Profile IconTracey Vellidis and Mikey Greenland joined University Web Developers
Jan 14
Sara Kisseberth posted a discussion

Archived magazine stories

Greetings,What are you all doing online with "old" magazine stories? Do you delete issues after so  many years? 5 years? 10? I'm torn between keeping all on for historical purposes or keeping just a few years online to simplify the site (ala Gerry McGovern.) Curious as to what you see best practices being.ThanksSara KisseberthBluffton Universitywww.bluffton.eduSee More
Jun 10, 2020
Erin Jorgensen posted a discussion

HighEdWeb 2020 Accessibility Summit

The HighEdWeb 2020 Accessibility Summit is a one-day, online conference about digital accessibility in higher education happening June 25, 2020, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. CDT.Join in to learn best practices, share stories and connect with your higher ed peers on topics including social media accessibility, web development, user experience and more. Sessions are designed to boost knowledge at every level, from accessibility beginners to technical experts. Conference registration is $25, with…See More
May 29, 2020
Erin Jorgensen is now a member of University Web Developers
May 29, 2020
Christine Boehler posted a discussion

HighEdWeb 2020 Annual Conference - ONLINE

October 19-20, 2020     Join us ONLINE for HighEdWeb 2020, the conference created by and for higher education professionals across all departments and divisions. Together we explore and find solutions for the unique issues facing digital teams at colleges and universities. In 2020, the Conference will be held completely online, offering multiple tracks of streamed presentations, live…See More
May 3, 2020
Sara Arnold commented on Lynn Zawie's group OmniUpdate
"Throughout April, we're hosting webcasts exploring how colleges and universities across North America are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Register for the series today!"
Apr 13, 2020
Christelle Lachapelle is now a member of University Web Developers
Apr 6, 2020
Sara Arnold commented on Lynn Zawie's group OmniUpdate
"Download our latest white paper to learn how the demographics of today’s higher ed learners are shifting, and how schools can adapt to meet the needs of these new learners."
Mar 31, 2020
Sara Arnold commented on Lynn Zawie's group OmniUpdate
"Join our next webcast with Amrit Ahluwalia from The EvoLLLution to learn about the new "modern learner" in higher education."
Mar 30, 2020
Sara Arnold commented on Lynn Zawie's group OmniUpdate
"As we ride out the latest developments and impact of the coronavirus, there's no better time than now to learn the three Bs of crisis planning."
Mar 16, 2020
Sara Arnold commented on Lynn Zawie's group OmniUpdate
"Is your college or university prepared to meet the challenges that come with disasters and emergencies like the coronavirus? Learn how your CMS can help."
Mar 12, 2020
Sara Arnold commented on Lynn Zawie's group OmniUpdate
"Can’t afford the time and money to launch a comprehensive guided pathways model? Register for our FREE webcast to learn tricks for simulating a digital guided pathways experience."
Feb 21, 2020
Sara Arnold commented on Lynn Zawie's group OmniUpdate
"With college enrollment decreasing for the 8th year in a row, boosting your college or university marketing efforts is more important than ever. Here's how to get started."
Feb 20, 2020
Christine Boehler posted a discussion

HighEdWeb 2020 Annual Conference

October 18-21, 2020 in Little Rock, Arkansas, USA     Join us for HighEdWeb 2020, the conference created by and for higher education professionals across all departments and divisions. Together we explore and find solutions for the unique issues facing digital teams at colleges and universities. With 100+ diverse sessions, an outstanding keynote presentation, intensive workshops, and engaging networking events,…See More
Feb 19, 2020
Christine Boehler posted a discussion

HighEdWeb 2020 Call for Proposals is Open!

The 2020 Annual Conference of the Higher Education Web Professionals Association (HighEdWeb) will travel to Little Rock, Arkansas, this October 18-21 — and the call for proposals is now open! As a digital professional in higher education, we know you have great ideas and experiences to share. From developers, marketers and programmers to managers, designers, writers and all team members in-between, HighEdWeb provides valuable professional development for all who want to explore the unique…See More
Feb 14, 2020
Christine Boehler shared Sara Clark's discussion on Facebook
Feb 14, 2020
Christine Boehler is now a member of University Web Developers
Feb 14, 2020
Brian Bell joined Kevin Daum's group
Feb 14, 2020
Brian Bell joined Mark Greenfield's group
Feb 14, 2020
Kenneth George is now a member of University Web Developers
Feb 13, 2020

UWEBD has been in existence for more than 10 years and is the very best email discussion list on the Internet, in any industry, on any topic


© 2021   Created by Mark Greenfield.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service