As a publishing coach, I often get questions about copyright. People are confused about what it protects, what they need to do, whether they need to add notes such as “all rights reserved” on materials, etc.
An important thing to note about copyright is exactly what you can copyright. Essentially, you can only copyright your particular expression of your ideas, not the ideas themselves. You can’t copyright titles, oddly enough, but you can possibly trademark them.
Any time you create a work, it is automatically protected under copyright law. Here’s a relevant paragraph from the U.S. Copyright office:
“Under U. S. law, copyright protection subsists from the time the work is fixed in any tangible medium of expression from which it can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Copyright registration is not mandatory, but it has important benefits.”
Because your work is copyrighted when it’s created, you don’t absolutely have to even post the copyright notice (i.e. the copyright symbol and date).
The main reason, in my opinion, to put the copyright notice is to remind people that this is copyrighted material. On a website where you’re selling something, you don’t need to add “All rights reserved.” However, include it if the site contains valuable content that someone might want to copy to, say, create an information product with YOUR material.
On something public like a blog or website, say if you’re giving away content to show that you know what you’re talking about, it makes sense to add “All rights reserved” with the copyright notice. In fact, in such cases, it’s a slight hint that the info there IS valuable.
So–for straight sales copy, no. For valuable content, yes. And nowadays, I think content IS what sells, so the lines can blur.
For information products, such as Special Reports and ebooks, minicourses etc., you definitely want to include “all rights reserved.” It’s not legally necessary, but it’s a reminder to other people that this is in fact copyrighted material and they do not have a right to copy it or distribute it.
In anything people download from my site, paid or unpaid, for example, I clearly spell out in the front pages what people can and cannot do with my material–whether they can pass it on or not, that they may not reproduce it, sell it, etc.
Many people seem to think that if something in on the Internet, it’s automatically free content that they can copy and redistribute at will. This is not the case, and posting copyright symbol, date, and “all rights reserved” is a reminder to readers that this is YOUR content.
To me, the more often more of us remind people of that, the better.