Intellectual Property:

International Copyright

International copyright, that is, protection against unauthorized use of a work throughout the world, does not exist as such. Copyright protection depends on the laws of each particular country. There are, however, a series of international agreements that have simplified and clarified international copyright law and provide protection to copyrighted works in foreign countries. The most important of these are the Berne Union for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Property (Berne Convention) and the Universal Copyright Convention (UCC); the US is a member of both.

The works of authors who are nationals or domiciliaries of countries that are members of the Berne Union or UCC are protected under those treaties, as are specific works that are published in Berne Union or UCC countries within thirty days of their initial publication. Under those agreements, the US does not require the notice of copyright (© followed by year and name), however, use of the notice does provide advantages in court, such as eliminating the defense of “innocent infringement.

In countries that are not part of these international conventions, there may be protection provided by bilateral agreements made with the US or, under the specific laws of the country. Ensuring copyrights in foreign countries is best done before the publication of a work, because often protection is based upon the location and time of publication. Furthermore, the laws of the country should be examined in order to understand the extent of protection provided. Some countries offer minimal protection, while others offer nothing at all. If there is confusion about an international copyright issue, it is best to contact a qualified intellectual property attorney.