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I recently received a reader question that was so good I had to look it up. (I used to pride myself on being able to answer esoteric editorial questions on the spot, but it’s been a while since I’ve worked full time as an editor).

The Q: I would like to know why the copyright symbol is used with the word copyright (for example: “copyright © 2009” ). Doesn’t the “©” symbol mean copyright anyway?  Why add the word “copyright” as well? To me it’s like saying “copyright copyright.”

The A: You are absolutely right. The word “copyright” is not necessary when using the © symbol. (This was actually news to me, as anyone who’s been on my web site will notice: It reads “Copyright © 2008 Midge Raymond.” Oops.)

The Chicago Manual of Style explains that copyright notice comprises three parts: the symbol, the year of publication, and the name of the copyright owner. Copyright law permits the use of the word Copyright or Copr. in lieu of the symbol, but the symbol is preferred because it “suits requirements of the Universal Copyright Convention, to which the United States, most European countries, and many Asian nations belong.” Chicago also points out: “There is no point in using both the symbol and the word, as some publishers do.”

And please also note that because your work is protected the moment you create it, technically the symbol isn’t required at all for unpublished work (see another post of mine on this) – and in many cases (such as submissions to agents and editors) you won’t want to use it.

So, yes, to use both the word and symbol for a published product is redundant and unnecessary (and I’m not only emailing my web designer right now, but I will clearly need to get reacquainted with my Chicago Manual). However, it’s also not at all uncommon for both to be used, so there’s probably no need to fret about it.

And thanks to Harry for the question! Hope to hear from more inquiring minds out there.

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I learned something

Thanks. I never realised or noticed that quirk. I'll be look more carefully at the books and websites I frequent to see if they make the same mistake. Hah!