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Copyright Law: Foreign and International Law

International Copyrights

There is no such thing as an “international copyright” that will automatically protect an author’s writings throughout the world. Protection against unauthorized use in a particular country depends on the national laws of that country. However, most countries offer protection to foreign works under certain conditions that have been greatly simplified by international copyright treaties and conventions. There are two principal international copyright conventions, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (Berne Convention) and the Universal Copyright Convention (UCC).

The United States became a member of the Berne Convention on March 1, 1989. It has been a member of the UCC since September 16, 1955. Generally, the works of an author who is a national or domiciliary of a country that is a member of these treaties or works first published in a member country or published within 30 days of first publication in a Berne Convention country can claim protection under the treaties. There are no formal requirements in the Berne Convention. Under the UCC, any formality in a national law can be satisfied by the use of a notice of copyright in the form and position specified in the UCC. A UCC notice should consist of the symbol © (C in a circle) accompanied by the year of first publication and the name of the copyright proprietor (example: © 2006 John Doe). This notice must be placed in such a manner and location as to give reasonable notice of the claim to copyright. Since the Berne Convention prohibits formal requirements that affect the “exercise and enjoyment” of the copyright, the United States changed its law on March 1, 1989, to make the use of a copyright notice optional. U.S. law, however, still provides certain advantages for use of a copyright notice; for example, the use of a copyright notice can defeat a defense of “innocent infringement.”  By U.S. Copyright Office

World Intellectual Property Organization

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is one of the 16 specialized agencies of the United Nations and has its intergovernmental organization headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Its main mission is to promote the protection of intellectual property throughout the world through cooperation among nations. (Intellectual property includes inventions, trademarks, industrial designs, and copyrights.) As of February 20, 1997, the WIPO membership includes 161 countries.

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You may also search for European, PCT, and Japanese patents from the European Patent Office webpage. (Note: Be sure you have JavaScript enabled when you do a search.)

International Intellectual Property Search

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WESTLAW Databases

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CCH Copyright Law Reporter

CCH Combined Intellectual Property Library-- Need Link 

Westlaw World Intellectual Property Rights and Remedies (WIPRR) (Paid Subscription)

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