The meaning of all rights reserved

all rights reserved book

The all rights reserved phrase appears in most copies of books, movies, and other creative works. What really is the meaning of “all rights reserved”? Is it still cool to include the notation in your creative work.

Copyright, just like trademark, is an important legal tool for protecting the intellectual property in original works. Original works include writing, photos, music, text, and your product name. Copyright ensures that original works belong to the people who created them and also allows authors to charge for the use of their intellectual property.

It is one thing to have a copyright and another to protect it. To protect your copyright, you can do both of these:

  • Place a copyright notice on your work.
  • Register your work with the United States Copyright Office.

You are encouraged to employ these two ways to protect your copyright. The reason is that when you place a copyright notice on copies of your work, no one can claim lack of knowledge that the work was subject to copyright protection. This should discourage anyone from infringing on the copyright.

Truthfully, you don’t even have to do either. The rule is that original creative work earn copyright the moment it is created.


Copyright notices are notations an author places on all copies of his original work to notify others of the copyright.

These statement of rights can be a reservation of rights (all rights reserved) or a declaration that no rights are reserved (No rights reserved), allowing the public free use to the work.

The copyright notice is accompanied by expressions such as these:

© 2022 Awa Ndubuisi Law. All Rights Reserved.

© 2022 Awa Ndubuisi Law. No Rights Reserved.

As shown above, the notice will include the copyright symbol ©, the copyright owner’s name, the year of creation of the work, and the reservation of rights. The symbol © is a universal symbol depicting copyrighted work.

The copyright owner’s name accompanies the symbol to show who the owner of the work is and direct the public on who to contact in case they would like to use the copyrighted work. You include the year so that the public can determine how long copyright protection will last. 

All rights Reserved Meaning

This is a copyright notice that serves as a warning to the public that the copyright owner recognizes his ownership over the copyright and disallows others from using such copyright, subject to legal exceptions.  It reveals that the owner reserves the right to pursue legal action under copyright law in case of misuse.

The legal exceptions to this include fair or private use and the right to quote from a work.  The law permits the use of small portions of a work to critique, teach, or as part of a news report. However, such use should not be for commercial purposes. Also, the press can also freely copy news and articles. Then, they must add a reference to the source.

History of the all rights reserved Clause

The Buenos Aires Convention of 1910 required a statement “that indicates the reservation of a property right” to accompany copyrighted works. The inclusion of the statement in signatory countries protects such work.

The 1st to 4th paragraphs of the convention says:

1st.–The signatory States acknowledge and protect the rights of Literary and Artistic Property in conformity with the stipulations of the present Convention.

 2nd.–In the expression ”Literary and Artistic Works” are included books, writings, pamphlets of all kinds, whatever may be the subject of which they treat and whatever the number of their pages; dramatic or dramatico-musical works; choreographic and musical compositions, with or without words; drawings, paintings sculpture, engravings; photographic works; astronomical or geographical globes; plans, sketches or plastic works relating to geography, geology or topography, architecture or any other science; and, finally all productions that can be published by any means of impression or reproduction. 3rd.–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.

4th.–The copyright of a literary or artistic work, includes for its author or assigns the exclusive power of disposing of the same, of publishing, assigning, translating or authorizing its translation and reproducing it in any form whether wholly or in part.

However, under the Berne Convention of 1971, all copyrighted work earns protection at the moment of creation. There is no longer a need for authors to include a statement that indicates a reservation of a property right. In 2000, the last country that was a signatory to the Buenos Aires Convention, Nicaragua, became a member of the Berne Convention. Thus, all signatory countries of the Buenos Aires Convention now recognize the protection of copyrighted work at the moment of creation.

Today, “All Rights Reserved’ serves to notify the public that the work is a subject of copyright; that unauthorized use of the copyright outside of fair use amounts to an infringement; and that the author will prosecute infringement.

No Rights reserved Meaning

If you include the statement “no rights reserved,” it means that you are permitting anyone else to use your work. You occasionally see this statement where the publication of the work is for some charitable or public-interest purpose. It also applies where the creator wants it to be available for general use by others.

Creative Commons (CC)

This non-profit organization founded in 2001 uses a slightly different phrase, “Some rights reserved”. The phrase buttress their mission of free access to creative and academic work. It’s a non-profit which aims at expanding the range of creative works available for content creators to build upon legally under certain conditions.

Every CC license allows you to copy, distribute, display or perform, communicate, and produce verbatim copies of the work. However, you should credit the creator of the work. You will need the permission of the creator of the work to do anything else beyond the terms of the license.

Duration of All rights reserved

Since January 1st, 1978, intellectual property has earned protection for the duration of the author’s life, plus an additional seventy years. If the work was anonymous, pseudonymous, or made as part of a commission, copyright lasts for 95 years from the moment of creation or 120 years after it was first published, whichever is shorter.

All rights reserved.

The argument is that use of the “All Rights Reserved” notice is obsolete. The rule following the Berne Convention is that all creative works earn copyright at the moment of creation. Thus there is no longer a need to place copyright notices on your work.

Still, the All Rights Reserved notice remains relevant.  It warns the general public to not mess with your creative work.

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