Should a copyright statement have copyright protection? It's an interesting question.
When we launched Smashwords two years ago and created the Smashwords Style Guide, we also created the Smashwords License Statement, the statement we recommend all authors insert into their copyright sections of their ebooks.
It reads as follows:
Smashwords License Statement
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Other than a couple minor word tweaks (suggested by eagle-eyed Smashwords authors), it has remained largely unchanged since we introduced it.
The other day I noticed an upstart competitor appropriated (mis-appropriated?) the Smashwords license statement as their own by replacing Smashwords.com with their own web site. I've seen authors and publishers do the same.
When we created it, it marked a departure from the traditional copyright statement found in most print books and early ebooks. I drew from my background in the software industry and my view that ebooks should be licensed similar to software.
It also abandoned the then-common fire and brimstone warnings of steep monetary penalties for copyright infringement by instead taking a kinder, gentler approach to copyright enforcement.
My view is that piracy is a bad thing, though the biggest threat to authors isn't the cloak and dagger pirate who hides out on underground torrent sites. The bigger threat (if it's truly a threat at all) is accidental piracy. It's your enthusiastic reader who loves your book, and because they love it they want to share it with their friends so they can love it too.
Since book sales are driven by, and dependent upon, word of mouth, we want to encourage customer-driven promotion. The Smashwords license statement acts as a trojan horse. If customers accidentally (illegally) share a Smashwords book with their friends, their friends are gently reminded they have a moral (and implied, legal) obligation to support the author of that work.
I have no intention of discouraging people from using our license statement. Consider it in the public domain.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons, showing Rembrandt's, "Moses mit den Gesetzestafeln," a.k.a. "Moses with the tablets of law." Interestingly, while we think of one of the ten commandments as "you shall not steal," according to this Wikipedia page it was originally intended to refer to slavery, and the stealing of people.