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International Copyright Protection 

International Copyright Protection

Ethical and Legal Considerations

Annette Flanagin

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International Copyright Protection

There is no international copyright law.57 Copyright law, scope, protections, and remedies are governed by individual nations and treaties between them. Thus, copyright laws do not automatically protect an author’s work throughout the world.58 However, most countries offer protection to works from other nations.57 For a detailed discussion of the copyright laws of individual countries, consult WIPO (which is under the auspices of the United Nations) in Geneva, Switzerland. See 5.6.14, Copyright Resources, for contact information for WIPO.

The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (commonly known as the Berne Convention)59 was originally signed by 10 European countries in 1886 in Berne, Switzerland, to protect copyright across their national borders.40,58 Today, the Berne Convention is administered by WIPO. For many years, the United States declined to sign the Berne Convention because of its lack of formality and its minimalist approach. For example, the Berne Convention does not require the use of a copyright notice, which was in conflict with prior US copyright law. To accommodate the US need for a minimum set of standards, the Universal Copyright Convention (UCC) was created by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1952. Under the UCC, works created in the United States could have multilateral protection without forfeiting the prior US requirement for copyright notice.40

After amending its copyright law by eliminating the requirement for copyright notice, the United States signed the Berne Convention in 1989. Most industrialized nations and many developing countries subscribe to this convention, and there are special provisions for developing countries that wish to make use of them.58 As of 2006, 162 nations had signed the Berne Convention.58,59 The Berne Convention has no formal requirements. However, each signatory country agrees to protect the copyright in works created in other member countries. Although the United States no longer mandates the use of copyright notice, the US Copyright Office still encourages voluntary use (see 5.6.6, Copyright Notice and Registration). The significance of the UCC is now largely historical after the adoption of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectal Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement and other international agreements in the 1990s, including WIPO’s Copyright and Performances and Phonograms Treaty and the WIPO Copyright Treaty.40 The WIPO Copyright Treaties, adopted in 1996, provide additional protections for works created in other member countries and address issues and questions raised by new economic, social, cultural, and technological developments as well as new international rules.41

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