Automating the copyright notice on a web site with a dynamic date is easy to do with PHP. We do this on every site that we develop, including WordPress sites.
Why would you want to automate the copyright date? You do not really have to update the date, but when I go to a site and see a copyright notice that was last updated in 2003, it tends to make me think that the site is not very active. A current year in the notice makes a site look more active. Automating the process means that you will never have to manually change the year in your notice.
There are a couple of different aspects to a copyright notice. A copyright notice is intended to be a notice that the content and images used in a web site are protected by copyright laws and cannot be used on other web sites without specific permission from the copyright owner.
It is important to note that U.S. law no longer requires the use of a copyright notice. If you are the original author, anything that you write is now theoretically automatically copyrighted; however, the posting of the notice is beneficial because many people around the world mistakenly believe that without a copyright notice, anything found on a web site is in the public domain and can be freely copied. It is therefore beneficial to use a properly formatted copyright notice on your web sites. This may give you additional protection if a copyright infringement case ends up in court. If you do not include a notice, you may be asking for trouble.
Here is the legalese related to the proper use of a copyright notice in the USA.
One part of the notice that does not seem to be covered by the wording of the law is the use of the phrases, “All rights reserved.” My attorney says that it is important to use this statement directly after the copyright notice. He also advises the use of an additional copyright notice at the top of an article, with a copyright year directly associated with the publishing date of an article. We will show you how to do both.
The main copyright notice for the site will go in the footer.php script in your WordPress theme. This example used PHP code and the same code can be added to the footer in any PHP web site. This example uses the code found in Tech-Evangelist.com.
© 2005 - <?php echo date("Y") ?> by Tech-Evangelist.com - All rights reserved.
The following is the code that we add to the top of the posts in Tech-Evanglelist.com. This specific code will only work with WordPress because it utilizes specific WordPress functions containing data associated with each post. The date with this notice will not change unless you manually change the publishing date in the post editor.
Each theme is going to be laid out differently, so you will have to find the correct place to insert the code. It will typically go in the single.php script, just below the page title and above the area where content is displayed.
<small>By <?php the_author(); ?> | <?php the_date('F j, Y'); ?> | Copyright <?php the_time('Y'); ?> - All Rights Reserved</small>
It can also help to add an additional, stronger copyright statement to the web pages in a site. We use “Posted code samples are free to use. Do not reproduce or republish articles or content on another web site.” This informs users about the limits of our copyright notice. You can also use stronger statements, such as, “All images and textual content is copyrighted and protected by US and international laws. No part of this site can be republished without the express written permission of the owner.”
Use whatever you feel is appropriate for you web site.