When I look at a potential partner or client website, often my first check is the footer. When I see ©2009 or  even earlier, red flags go off in my mind. I decided to research further why that copyright footer is there, and what exactly it means.

  1. The copyright symbol is used to indicate the last major update to content. So technically ©2009 may be appropriate for your site, but if content is that old, perhaps it’s time for an overhaul.
  2. The symbol often precedes a date range, with first publication date through the current year. This indicates that the website has been online and published over that time.
  3. It’s not necessary to use the copyright symbol as works published to the web are considered to be published. Using the symbol may help to scare off potential infringers, and if you happen to find your content reposted, can potentially help you recover damages in court.
  4. If you are going to enter into any lawsuit, the work has to be registered with the US Copyright Office and costs somewhere north of $35 and could take up to a year to successfully register.

(the preceding points are adapted from nolo.com as well as the US Copyright office. I’m not a lawyer – if you need copyright advice, you should probably hire someone.)  

So – why do I care about the copyright date?

Well – the first thing that an old copyright date tells me is that the website has not been reviewed in a while. Even doing a quick content review should lead the reviewer to change it to at least ©2009-2015 if not just ©2015. If no major content has been added, it’s understandable that the date not be updated. BUT CONTENT NEEDS TO BE DYNAMIC. If you’re not updating content on your website, you should basically just have a page with your phone number and email address. Why bother having links if they are meaningless?

If your website is just sitting there being static, I can also guess that it’s not mobile-optimized and your content is probably not super relevant to me. If I’m looking for engaged partners to work with, they care that their site hasn’t been touched in 5 years. If I’m looking for easy-win marketing strategy clients, I really care that the site hasn’t been touched in a while. (Note: I’m not a marketing strategist so it’s easy for me to say that. If I were, perhaps I’d have a different take on that.)

There are plenty of pages from web developers explaining how and when to automate the date functionality — https://css-tricks.com/snippets/php/automatic-copyright-year/ is one — and just not doing it seems SUPER LAZY. If you haven’t really looked at your website in five years, I probably won’t trust you to work with me.