Conceptually, the whole idea of copyright is a bit silly. If I doodle on a napkin, the law states I "own" whatever it is I doodled; ownership of this doodle is "copyrighted" insofar as the law is concerned. (C) just means that "that guy created that thing."
It's almost a big joke. Almost.
If you're wondering about the statement, "that guy created that thing," read on -- this point may mislead, but take note that the law does NOT* suggest I'm the first to have doodled whatever it is; the copyright thing is simply a legal way of saying, "you are the person who created that particular doodle." It does not address the originality of the doodle, just the doodle itself. In a lot of applications (c) doesn't mean much, but many artists use it anyway (thus the (c)(year)(name)s on tapes, books, etc).
Now, if I've written some exhorbitant symphony, but only a handful of people have heard the computer-generated (read, ONLY) recorded version of it, and I'm mistrusting of some of these folks, then I might consider going beyond the copyright mechanism, onto the protected crapola. Since so few people have heard it, the (p) will help me establish a timeline for any future court actions. Thus, the (p)(year)(name)s on CDs, DVDs, etc.
Yes, simply by sending Uncle Sam some cash I can protect my copyright -- which was supposed to be in effect the very moment I finished my creation.
It's a sham, really, and the Library of Congress lives on this stuff. The advantage, of course -- if anyone comes along three years from now, my official (p) will do me a lot more good in court than any (c)'s I might automatically "own."
(Believe it or not, I own literature on this stuff. Somewhere buried in my basement, & I'm too tired right now to try to find it online, but trust me -- there's a frighteningly bulky library of FEDERAL statutes concerning all these issues.)
Now, it's easy to send the Libary of Congress a CD or tape of a piece of music of mine, and it'd be easy for someone like Stafford to print up a copy of his "Foundations of REality" and send it in for a lifetime of FEDERAL protection, but... how can one protect the contents of his ever-growing web site?
Simple. Put a notice on the website itself, informing the users that everything within is owned by the webmaster. "(C)" Anything more sensitive might need to be printed up and sent in to that sham deal known as (p).
* Not yelling, it's just that the italics and bold fonts are gone now.