My University requires students to add the mention "All rights reserved." on their thesis. The full required copyright notice is "© 2008 Jane Doe. All rights reserved."

However, I have read in a couple of places that the mention "All rights reserved" has no legal significance:

http://www.iusmentis.com/copyright/allrightsreserved/ :

The phrase was a required element in the 1910 Buenos Aires Copyright Convention. This was a treaty between the United States and most South and Middle American countries. Article 3 of this Convention states:

The acknowledgement of a copyright obtained in one State, in conformity with its laws, shall produce its effects of full right, in all the other States, without the necessity of complying with any other formality, provided always there shall appear in the work a statement that indicates the reservation of the property right.

Adding the phrase "All rights reserved" was enough to comply with this article.

The phrase "All rights reserved" indicates that the copyright holder does not want to give up any of the exclusive rights he has under copyright law. This is only relevant for members of the Buenos Aires Copyright Convention.

Today all members of the Buenos Aires Copyright Convention are also member of the Berne Convention. The Berne Convention states that unless explicitly stated otherwise, all rights are reserved. Further, a copyright law may not require any formalities as a condition for copyright protection. Therefore "All rights reserved" has no legal significance anymore.

Wikipedia echoes the same information:

The requirement to add the "all rights reserved" notice became essentially obsolete on August 23, 2000 when Nicaragua became the final member of the Buenos Aires Convention to also become a signatory to the Berne Convention. As of that date, every country that was a member of the Buenos Aires Convention (which is the only copyright treaty requiring this notice to be used) was also a member of Berne, which requires protection be granted without any formality of notice of copyright.

Is adding "All rights reserved" only a legally insignificant reminder to the reader that author is by default the copyright holder of the piece of work and that he did not give up any of the exclusive rights he has under copyright law? Has the mention "All rights reserved" turned to be useful in the jurisprudence since its legal obsolescence?

  • 6
    I wonder whether it even needs the “© 2008 Jane Doe” as “a copyright law may not require any formalities as a condition for copyright protection”.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Oct 17, 2014 at 16:17
  • 2
    @Wrzlprmft: If you don't add a notice at all, then you still legally own a copyright, but the copyright may become effectively impossible to enforce. Here in the US, filing a copyright form with the government is required if you want to be able to sue infringers later for punitive damages. This is very important, because actual damages are often very small or zero, and it may be impossible to get a lawyer to handle the case if the only prospect of damages is actual damages.
    – user1482
    Oct 17, 2014 at 18:46
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    @JeffE: "If registration is made within three months after publica­ tion of the work or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorney’s fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions. Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is available to the copyright owner." From a flyer titled "Copyright Basics," US Copyright Office. copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf "Punitive damages" doesn't actually seem to be the correct legal term, but otherwise I think this supports what I said.
    – user1482
    Oct 18, 2014 at 18:57
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    @Wrzlprmft: But filing a copyright form is something different than just writing “© 2008 Jane Doe” – so, what’s the advantage of the latter? "Use of the notice may be important because it informs the public that the work is protected by copyright, identifies the copyright owner, and shows the year of first publication. Furthermore, [...]" From p. 4 of a flyer titled "Copyright Basics," US Copyright Office. copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf
    – user1482
    Oct 18, 2014 at 19:02
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    @BenCrowell: Interesting. US-American law is weird.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Oct 18, 2014 at 19:18

1 Answer 1


Currently, copyright is assumed to the authors unless explicitly declared otherwise, and no rights are granted unless explicitly declared. Thus, de facto your work is "all rights reserved" even if you don't explicitly state it.

Please do make sure you explicitly state copyright information, however, including name and durable contact information! The assumption of strong copyright protection even without explicit notification is actually a big problem for effective sharing of information both inside academia and outside, because people often reserve more rights than they intend to, and lack of good copyright information makes it difficult to correct this.

A number of organizations are building systems intending to simplify this type of interaction. One of the most notable is Creative Commons, whose licenses your see all over Wikipedia. Other similar ventures and consortia exist for software, electronic hardware, mechanical blueprints, DNA, etc., each of which has its own unique set of IP problems, often intensified by the interaction of copyright with patents and less well-known IP systems such as EU sui generis database rights.

  • I don't quite see how this answers the question...
    – David Z
    Oct 18, 2014 at 18:35
  • @DavidZ I see that I made a few too many conceptual jumps in the answer; I've expanded and clarified to try to make it clearer.
    – jakebeal
    Oct 18, 2014 at 18:43

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