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I have not yet seen anyone in academia put a copyright notice on their CV or resume. Why is this?

One might expect that even if the content is implicitly copyrighted, the layout/format/style of the document -- perhaps more so for a graphic designer -- is part of one's intellectual property.

closed as off-topic by Dmitry Savostyanov, corey979, Peteris, Elizabeth Henning, scaaahu Feb 13 at 2:09

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    What would be the point? – Azor Ahai Feb 11 at 20:49
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    Who would want to copy your CV that you are worried about? – Thomas Feb 11 at 21:00
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    It will look like you're marking territory. Not a great quality people are looking for in colleagues. – darij grinberg Feb 11 at 23:45
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    Since your CV should be a collection of facts it cannot, as I understand it, be copyrighted. I wonder, though, how much embellishment of one's career is necessary to make it a creative work? – Ken Y-N Feb 12 at 5:39
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is not about academia. – Dmitry Savostyanov Feb 12 at 15:44
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While your CV can technically be regarded as a piece of intellectual property, the usual reason why people assert their copyright to a work by putting a copyright notice on it is to deter and prevent other people from copying or sharing that work (usually so they - the authors - can profit by selling the work).

With your CV, it is actually in your interest to have as many people as possible sharing it and passing it around, so the incentives work completely in the opposite direction from a more traditional type of intellectual product.

Now, if your CV is such an amazing piece of work that people will be willing to pay for a copy, we’d be having a different discussion...

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    You still want the right people sharing it. The maxim that "all publicity is good publicity" is still false. – Ben Voigt Feb 12 at 1:26
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    @BenVoigt indeed. I’d hate to think that at this very moment some unsavory people might be gathered together in a smoke-filled room somewhere, looking at my CV and scheming to make me a job offer I can’t refuse... – Dan Romik Feb 12 at 4:13
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    @Gnudiff I agree that most CV’s will have only little that is copyrightable according to the law. But that’s tangential to what I wrote. The main point is that whatever copyright protection you are technically entitled to, asserting it by including a copyright notice is simply counterproductive. – Dan Romik Feb 12 at 9:51
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    You don't always want max spread of your CV. Sometimes you want just the particular place you are applying to to see this version of your CV that you are sending to them. There could be tons of reasons for this. Maybe it is a very niche market / company / skill which would not really be relevant to send to all the other employers in the world. Also phishing and identity theft has been increasing much on the internet the latest years for example. CV can be a gold mine of information for such purposes. – mathreadler Feb 12 at 12:42
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    @DanRomik I'm with Ben Voigt on this. A CV contains a lot of personal information and as such it is in a person's best interest that the spread be limited. More so if the CV is truthful and not flattering. That being said I agree that there's no real purpose of a copyright for a CV. – Nox Feb 12 at 13:13
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  1. In the US, copyright notices have not been required for decades. So there is no benefit.

  2. It isn't done and will be perceived as strange. Since the purpose of your resume is to help you, don't do things like this.

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    It's correct that copyright notices aren't required, but that doesn't mean there's no benefit to them. They can help discourage innocent infringement ("I didn't realise anybody would care if I copied this"), and they make it much harder for an infringer to claim that as a defence - although the latter is only really important if the owner has registered copyright, since US law severely limits the action you can take without registration. – Geoffrey Brent Feb 11 at 23:44
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    I'm having problems getting my head around the notion of "innocent copyright infringement of a CV" ;) – alephzero Feb 12 at 0:14
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    @alephzero It's certainly not common, but I could see it happening if someone thinks "my friend's resume is great, let me post it on Facebook/Instagram/etc. so all my other friends see what a good resume looks like" – David Z Feb 12 at 0:20
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    @alephzero OP was talking about graphical elements. I can easily imagine somebody believing that it was okay to copy those while changing the text. (Whether they actually are subject to copyright is another question; I imagine if they were sufficiently elaborate, yes, but that seems like a bad idea for an academic CV.) – Geoffrey Brent Feb 12 at 5:30
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    @DavidZ and would a copyright notice stop them? If anybody has the means to post your CV without your permission then either they know better than to do it or they aren't bothered by laws or even basic decency. Whatever the case, the copyright notice is irrelevant. – VLAZ Feb 12 at 15:36
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Copyright generally protects the content/text/copy and not the layout. If you believe your layout is so novel, you could try patenting it, but I doubt that will be successful (and you probably should not be using something so novel for a CV unless you are a graphic designer).

In response to comments, according to this document from the US Copyright Office the layout of a document is not copyrightable.

As a general rule, the Office will not accept a claim to copyright in “format” or “layout.” The general layout or format of a book, page, book cover, slide presentation, web page, poster, or form is uncopyrightable because it is a template for expression.

You might try and claim the CV layout is like a blank form, but those are also not copyrightable

Blank forms that are designed for recording information and do not themselves convey information are uncopyrightable.

Even the content of the CV is probably not copyrightable

To be copyrightable, a work must qualify as an original work of authorship, meaning that it must have been created independently and contain a sufficient amount of creativity.

since a CV is generally just a list of facts and the text is not really creative.

The combination of the text and layout might satisfy the requirement for copyright and potentially entitle you to damages if someone copied your CV, but it would not provide protection from someone using your CV as a template and replacing your accomplishments with theirs and likely would not protect you from them taking your accomplishments and reformatting them.

As for weather a patent would be appropriate, I think it would fall under a design patent

A design patent protects only the appearance of the article and not structural or utilitarian features.

where the layout is the design and the article is the content of the CV. As I said above, this is probably a huge stretch.

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    The layout and design is absolutely (potentially) subject to copyright as an artistic work in all Berne Convention signatories. Being in a Berne country also makes the copyright notice unnecessary, of course. You don't need a patent. – Michael Homer Feb 12 at 6:38
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    This is completely wrong. Copyright absolutely protects the layout (in fact it may well not protect the content because that should just be a collection of facts). Copyright protecting the layout is why copies of the Canterbury Tales are still copyrightable. Patents protect inventions, not layouts. You cannot obtain a patent for a CV. – Martin Bonner Feb 12 at 13:27
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    From your linked document: " Copyright protection may be available for the selection, coordination, or arrangement of the specific content that is selected and arranged in a sufficiently creative manner. The claim, however, would be limited to the selection and arrangement of that specific content, not to the selection and arrangement of any content in that particular manner. " (Granted my statement was overstrong. It should have been "Copyright absolutely can protect..." – Martin Bonner Feb 12 at 14:56
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    Design patent: "applied to an article of manufacture". An electronic document is not an article of manufacture. – Martin Bonner Feb 12 at 14:58
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    Berne convention: 'The expression “literary and artistic works” shall include every production in the literary, scientific and artistic domain'. Hence a sufficiently artistic or literary CV is protected. – Martin Bonner Feb 12 at 15:01
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One might expect that even if the content is implicitly copyrighted,

Content of a CV should generally contain information and information is not subject to copyright. It will probably be subject to some information privacy law though, depending on your location.

the layout/format/style of the document -- perhaps more so for a graphic designer -- is part of one's intellectual property.

Yes, it is possible for the layout or style of CV to be intellectual property, however, it is unlikely indeed, unless you are a kind of graphic designer or similar who has meticulously created a sufficiently originally looking CV unlike any other.

Otherwise, since CVs are generally comparatively rigid in structure, format and purpose, unless you are in the creative field, you might risk either (a) creating a CV that looks similar enough to one of the billions of previous ones to be considered plagiarism for the purposes of copyright, or (b) creating a CV whose outlook is unique, has a sufficient degree of originality, but fails to produce any interest in the potential reviewer, who, perhaps, must orient himself quickly among dozens of different CVs every day.

Plus, even in that case, as others said, you don't need an explicit copyright notice, since the things that are copyright-able will be considered such.

On the social side, if I, as a prospective employer, saw a trivially looking CV with a copyright notice, I would consider the author to be ostentatious and less likely of interest for employment (He wants to copyright his CV? What else he might have misconceptions about?).

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Can you? Absolutely.

Must you include a notice in order to maintain a copyright? No, at least not under most current copyright regimes. For example, the U.S. did away with this requirement effective March 1, 1989. Most other countries had removed it long before. So long as your CV meets the threshhold of originality, which is generally quite low, it will be protected.

Should you? In the U.S., including a notice still conveys some "benefits." Generally speaking they are not actually beneficial to a person who holds copyright in a CV, because they are associated with bringing an infringement suit. It seems unlikely to me that you would want to bring an infringement suit based on someone's use of your CV. You can read about the benefits in the U.S. Copyright Office's Circular 3.

You say you haven't seen copyright notices on CVs in the past. (Neither have I.) I'd urge you to defer to this custom. Why give people reviewing your CV a distraction? Plus, presumably you want your CV to look like the CVs of people who have been successful in obtaining the sort of job you want.

While we're at it, let's address what the copyright protection in your CV, which is automatic and independent of the copyright notice, actually covers. It does not prevent others from using unoriginal elements of your CV that you did not create. For instance, typesetting the headings in bold would not be original, and thus your right to your CV would not entitle you to prevent me from bolding the headings on my CV. You might also follow quite a few CV conventions in preparing your CV (e.g., listing items in chronological order). Your copyright will not give you a property right in those conventions. You also list facts on your CV, such as the year you got a particular degree. Others can use that fact without permission, as copyright does not protect facts. Since CVs are dictated by convention and consist largely of facts, the right of the copyright holder is essentially narrower -- it covers only very close reproduction of the CV. In the United States this is sometimes called "thin" copyright.

Does that mean others cannot copy, distribute, or display your CV? Not entirely. When you share a CV with someone, especially via a job application, you are giving them an implied license to use it for the sorts of things you both anticipate they will use it for (e.g., distributing copies to members of a search committee). In addition, anyone can use your CV under the user's rights recognized in their jurisdiction (e.g., fair use in U.S. law).

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I put a copyright notice on the version of my CV that I posted on my website. I did this because others periodically would upload my CV to file sharing websites. (I assume this was because the websites required you to upload files. Not sure why my CV was picked for this.) I don't want that to happen because my CV has changed significantly over the course of grad school. Old CVs don't represent me well.

Since doing this I have not noticed any file sharing websites with copies of my CV, though I don't know if that has anything to do with the copyright notice.

For what it's worth, I also added the date of the last change and a URL to download the most recent version at the bottom. Those would probably do more to stop people from thinking my old CV is current than anything else.

  • I seriously doubt people who upload to file sharing websites care about a copyright symbol ;) – darij grinberg Feb 13 at 7:29
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Putting copyright notices on pages you write is alien to how people think, and they typically never consider the possibility they might need to/want to do that.

After all, copyrights (and copyright notices) are strange artifacts of authoritarianism in human society, dating back to how the British crown decided to artificially prop up publisher monopolies centuries ago.

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    The British Crown has nothing whatsoever to do with copyright in most parts of the world. – David Richerby Feb 12 at 14:02
  • @DavidRicherby: The statute of Anne is the first example of a law preventing people from copying text. It definitely served to legitimize this unconscionable practice in other countries - not to mention having a direct effect on British colonies such as the to-be-USA and others. – einpoklum Feb 12 at 14:16

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