Introduction to international copyright law

International copyright protection

WIPO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

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International copyright conventions

List of abbreviations used for International conventions and agreements within this document:

UCC - Universal Copyright Convention (Geneva & Paris)

WCT -  WIPO Copyright Treaty

TRIPS - Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights

Berne - Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works

Details of copyright law will vary from country to country, as each country will have its own laws and legislation, but international conventions and agreements are used to guarantee a minimum level of protection in most countries. The main articles governing copyright are the Berne Convention, Universal Copyright Convention (Geneva & Paris) (UCC), Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT), and the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
Of these, the most significant is the Berne Convention as many of its conditions are stipulated directly within both WCT and TRIPS.

In order to become a signatory to one of these articles, a country will amend its intellectual property laws if/where required to ensure compliance with that article. This means that authors across the world are able to enjoy comparable protection in most foreign countries.

Berne convention

Copyright protection is automatic without the need for any formal requirements under the Berne Convention.

Under Berne, any author who is a national or domiciliary of a country that is a Berne Convention signatory, or where the work was first published (or published within 30 days of first publication) in a Berne Convention country can claim protection under the the Berne Convention.

UCC Universal Copyright Convention

Under the terms of the UCC, both published and unpublished works by nationals of member countries are receive the same protection in other member countries as they grant their own nationals.

Additionally, any formality in a national law will be satisfied simply by the use of a notice of copyright in the form as described in the legislation:

Universal Copyright Convention, with Appendix Declaration relating to Articles XVII and Resolution concerning Article XI 1952:

"Any Contracting State which, under its domestic law, requires as a condition of copyright, compliance with formalities such as deposit, registration, notice, notarial certificates, payment of fees or manufacture or publication in that Contracting State, shall regard these requirements as satisfied with respect to all works protected in accordance with this Convention and first published outside its territory and the author of which is not one of its nationals, if from the time of the first publication all the copies of the work published with the authority of the author or other copyright proprietor bear the symbol © accompanied by the name of the copyright proprietor and the year of first publication placed in such manner and location as to give reasonable notice of claim of copyright"

What countries have not signed copyright agreements?

The following countries (at the time of writing) are not signatories of any of the major international copyright conventions or agreements:

Somalia, San Marino, Palau, Nauru, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Iran, Iraq, Ethiopia, Eritrea, East Timor, Afghanistan

Where can I see a list of agreements each country has signed?

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