"....Although I know that this is pretty standard, I wasn't exactly sure what it meant, and neither were they.... I guess the question is this: does the notice refer to the website being copyrighted, or does it refer to the content on the site being copyrighted? Does it matter?"
As a standard it is a little of both. I also noticed that some of (most all) the sites on the web just have that information written in as text. It is best to have it written in as java script so that the date is always current.
This is also where privacy policies and corporate (style) statements usually come into play to explain which information is the companies, which information has been bought as a service and is only partially theirs to use (graphics are a great example of borrowed content), and what information is altogether borrowed or not theirs (like open source information etc.)
According to the wikipedia article on copyrights:
"Copyright is a legal concept, enacted by governments, giving the creator of an original work of authorship exclusive rights to it, usually for a limited time, after which the work enters the public domain. Generally, it is "the right to copy", but also gives the copyright holder the right to be credited for the work, to determine who may adapt the work to other forms, who may perform the work, who may financially benefit from it, and other, related rights. It is an intellectual property form (like the patent, the trademark, and the trade secret) applicable to any expressible form of an idea or information that is substantive and discrete.
Copyright initially was conceived a way for governments in Europe to restrict printing; the contemporary intent of copyright is to promote the creation of new works by giving authors control of and profit from them.
Copy rights have been internationally standardised, lasting between fifty to a hundred years from the creator's death, or a finite period for anonymous or corporate creations; some jurisdictions have required formalities to establishing copyright, most recognize copyright in any completed work, without formal registration. Generally, copyright is enforced as a civil matter, though some jurisdictions do apply criminal sanctions.
Most jurisdictions recognize copyright limitations, allowing "fair" exceptions to the creator's exclusivity of copyright, and giving users certain rights. The development of the Internet, digital media, computer network technologies, such as peer-to-peer filesharing, have prompted reinterpretation of these exceptions, introduced new difficulties in enforcing copyright, and inspired additional challenges to copyright law's philosophic basis. Simultaneously, businesses with great economic dependence upon copyright have advocated the extension and expansion of their copy rights, and sought additional legal and technological enforcement."
When referring to websites this subject becomes a little blurred (see link to internet and digital media). The following are a few good resources on the subject:
- U.S. Copyright Office FAQs
- U.S. Copyright Office Main Page and Resources
- Benefits of Website Copyright Registration
- 10 Big Myths about copyrights explained
- Standford Copyright and Fair Use Center
- Copyrights and Wrongs