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The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, which concluded in 1886, was developed to harmonize laws regarding the protection of intellectual property, internationally.  The idea is for member countries to have similar minimum standards of protection for copyright.
The Convention is administered by the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO), a specialized agency of the United Nations

Why it’s important
Enforcing treaties which protect intellectual property, such as copyright, are important because they promote creativity, fair trade and the contribution to economic and social development.

The Basic Principles of the Berne Convention
1. Principal of National Treatment (giving others the same treatment as one’s own nationals)
Someone who either lives in the member country, or first publishes in the member country must be given the same copyright protection in each of the other member countries as that member country grants to its own nationals.  For example: If you publish a book in the U.S, and someone in Canada distributes copies of it without your permission, you could pursue an infringement case as if you were a Canadian citizen.

2. Automatic Protection
Copyright protection in Bern Convention countries is automatic the moment the expression is put in a fixed form and does not require registration or marking it with the copyright symbol, although both are highly recommended for added protection.
Note: when the United States joined the convention in 1989, they continued to make statutory damages and attorney’s fees only available for registered works.  However, this does not apply for works not originating in the U.S.

Minimum Standards of the Berne Convention

Rights Protected

The following are the rights protected by the Berne Convention as outlined on the WIPO website

  • the right to translate the work,
  • the right to make adaptations and arrangements of the work,
  • the right to perform in public dramatic, musical and musical works,
  • the right to recite in public literary works,
  • the right to communicate to the public the performance of such works,
  • the right to broadcast (with the possibility of a contracting State to provide for a mere right to equitable remuneration instead of a right of authorization),
  • the right to make reproductions in any manner or form (with the possibility of a contracting State to permit,  in certain special cases, reproduction without authorization provided that the reproduction does not conflict with the normal exploitation of the work and does not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the author, and with the possibility of a contracting State to provide, in the case of sound recordings of musical works, for a right to equitable remuneration),
  • the right to use the work as a basis for an audiovisual work, and the right to reproduce, distribute, perform in public or communicate to the public that audiovisual work

Moral Rights
The convention also claims the author will retain:

  • the right to claim authorship of the work
  • the right to refute to any adjustment of the work or any action that “would be prejudicial to the author’s honor or reputation.”

Duration of Protection

All works that fall under copyright are protected for at least 50 years after the calendar year of the author’s death with the exceptions of:

  • Photography: minimum term is 25 years from the year the photograph was created
  • Cinematography: minimum term is 50 years after the first showing or, if the work has never been shown, 50 year from the creation date.

Although the minimum duration of copyright is 50 years, some countries have chosen to extend this period of time to 70 years after the creator’s passing.
When determining the duration of copyright internationally, you should go by the standards set in your country.

Berne Convention Members
A current list of Berne Convention signatories can be found on the WIPO website
Additionally, under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPs Agreement), all World Trade Organization members must accept almost all of the conditions of the Berne Convention.

Author Bio
Justine Shoolman is the Co-Founder of Copyright Creators (www.copyrightcreators.com), a service inspired by the shortfalls of ‘poor man’s copyright’.  Copyright Creators protects copyright for life with no membership or renewal fees.  Visit Copyright Creators today and you’ll receive 4 free registrations to protect & create proof of your copyright online.

4 Responses to “The Berne Convention – Protecting Copyright Internationally”

  1. Antonia says:

    Nice work! I read with interest Waiting for new posts

  2. Alin says:

    Very useful topic. I think it is useful for most people. Thank you for your blogs.

  3. Franco Frescura says:

    Hullo. We have a problem locally, where a South African telephone company has appropriated the copyright symbol as its corporate logo. The question therefore is: does the copyright symbol enjoy copyright? if so under what statute or international aggreement? I need chapter and verse on this one please.

    A luta continua!

    Best regards,

    Franco

  4. The Copyright Creators Team says:

    Hi Franco,
    The copyright symbol is not protected under copyright law and can be incorporated in a business’ logo.

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