You don't have to register or even claim copyright in an original work, the copyright act says that copyright exists from the moment an original work is first published.
Lots of people put a copyright claim on original works, but it isn't strictly necessary at all. They do it to provide people with a reminder.
The term 'Original work' applies to a book, a play, a photograph, an essay, a report, a letter, an email, some content on websites, and even posts on web forums (except that in the case of our forum you agree to transfer copyright to us when you first register with jus).
Not many people realise that if you ask a photographer to take a picture of you, or even if you pay one to photograph your wedding, the photographer owns the copyright in the images. If I send you a letter or an email, I own the copyright, and you may not publish it anywhere without my consent.
It's all quite complex, and of course people infringe copyight all the time, especially where web content is concerned.
To answer your question - the date alongside the copyright claim on a website may refer to the date the site was first published, or it may have been altered when some site content was changed. It really has no bearing on the copyright itself. That belongs to the person who wrote the text, and if that was the web designer he or she will have transferred it to the client, once the final payment for the site was received. That's what I do when I design sites for people - it's one way of ensuring that you actually get paid.
The vast majority of websites have a copyright notice in the footer. Most designers do this as routine on all websites they design. But what exactly does it mean and what protection does it provide? This is vital information for web professionals to know. Here are answers to some common questions related to copyrights.