Copyright notices on documentation

October 18, 2008

Asked on one of my technical writing discussion lists:

Our company name just changed, due to a spin-off. I have copyright notices in all of the 100-plus manuals that I write. As I updated that latest manual, I realized that the copyright notice has the old company name. Since I’m only updating a chapter in the book, and this is not a new manual, do I change the name in the notice?

My response:

Get thee to the company’s legal team! A company with some 100 manuals is likely to be a reasonable size, and it’s just undergone a takeover. Lawyers have been involved. The company has a lawyer. Seek out who it is, and get them to do the wording.

It won’t be just the manuals that need changing. All the corporate stationery, website, public directory information, EULAs in software that you make (if you make any), signage on hardware etc. needs to be considered for legal notices.

It’s possible that the legal team have already made decisions on this. Your responsibility is not to decide on what to change—it’s to find someone who has contact with the legal team (if you can’t access them yourself), alert them to the issue, follow up, and then make the changes that they have decreed from upon high. And get any such changes in writing. CYA.

(CYA = Cover Your A**)

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