Copyright protection of your work in other countries is governed by the laws of the particular country in question. If a country has signed and ratified the Berne Treaty then the principles of the treaty will be applied as well.

The Berne treaty is an international treaty that outlines the basic copyrights that all signatory nations will abide by.

The main points are:

  • works created in a foreign nation will be treated as if created domestically.
  • all artists have the exclusive right to authorize translations, reproduction, performance, and adaptation of their works.
  • all artists have the right of integrity and attribution.

The terms of agreement as set out in the Berne Treaty state that copyright for all original creative works set in a fixed medium are automatic and the protection should last for a minimum of 50 years after the author's death. (Excluding photographic and cinematographic works).

Under the Berne Treaty music and sound recordings are protected both nationally and internationally, through copyright and related-rights (or "neighbouring rights") laws in most countries, and a series of international treaties that ensure that creative people and companies are protected in countries other than their own.

National treatment: Under Berne, an author's rights are respected in another country as though the author were a national (citizen) of that country For example; works by U.S. authors are protected by French copyright in France, and vice versa, because both the U.S. and France are signatories to Berne.

The Berne Convention requires that the national law of each member state automatically extends minimum standards of copyright protection to nationals of all other member states.

Most Western European countries, and the USA and Russia, are now signatories of the Berne Convention. Under this agreement, you do not have to mark your work in any way for automatic protection to apply. However, despite marking your work not being a requirement of the Berne Convention, it is sensible to mark your work with the international © symbol, followed by the name of the copyright owner and year in which the work was created. In this way you can be identified as the copyright owner of the work and a person who wishes to use the work can contact you as well as broadly calculate whether the work remains in copyright.

The USA has an official register of copyright works, although registration is not actually needed to qualify for copyright protection in the USA (or indeed any country that is a signatory of the Berne Convention). However if you do register your work you will be entitled to enhanced protection in the USA.

Protection abroad can also arise from obligations in the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement. This forms part of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreement and may protect your work automatically. Details of the TRIPS agreement and a list of these countries are on their website.

The minimum standards of protection relate to the works and rights to be protected

As to works, protection must include "every production in the literary, scientific and artistic domain, whatever the mode or form of its expression" (Article 2(1) of the Convention).

Subject to certain allowed reservations, limitations or exceptions, the following are among the rights that must be recognized as exclusive rights of authorization:

the right to translate,

the right to make adaptations and arrangements of the work,

the right to perform in public dramatic, dramatico-musical and musical works,

the right to recite literary works in public,

the right to communicate to the public the performance of such works,

the right to broadcast (with the possibility that a Contracting State may 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 that a Contracting State may 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 the possibility that a Contracting State may 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.

Copyright exceptions and limitations

The Berne Convention includes a number of specific copyright exceptions, scattered in several provisions due to the historical reason of Berne negotiations. For example, Article 10(2) permits Berne members to provide for a "teaching exception" within their copyright statutes. The exception is limited to a use for illustration of the subject matter taught and it must be related to teaching activities.

In addition to specific exceptions, the Berne Convention establishes the "three-step test" in Article 9 (2), which establishes a framework for member nations to develop their own national exceptions. The three-step test establishes three requirements: that the legislation be limited to certain (1) special cases; (2) that the exception does not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work, and (3) that the exception does not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the author.

The Berne Convention does not expressly reference doctrines such as fair use or fair dealing, leading some critics of fair use to argue that fair use violates the Berne Convention. However, the United States and other fair use nations argue that flexible standards such as fair use include the factors of the three-step test, and are therefore compliant. The WTO Panel has ruled that the standards are not incompatible.

The Berne Convention also fails to include Internet safe harbors, as is common in many countries. However, the Agreed Statement of the parties to the WIPO Copyright Treaty of 1996 states that: "It is understood that the mere provision of physical facilities for enabling or making a communication does not in itself amount to communication within the meaning of this Treaty or the Berne Convention." This language may mean that Internet service providers are not liable for the infringing communications of their users.

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