Essay: What Is International Copyright Law?

by: Richard Cunningham


Many people are surprised to learn there is no international copyright law. Yes, that is right. There is not an international copyright law that will protect your work on the other side of the world. However, it is important to note that most countries do offer some form of protection known as “foreign” works.

International conventions and treaties have done a lot to protect owners of copyrights around the world. With the world seemingly becoming smaller every day, the United States took a look at its stance on the European copyright treaty known as the Berne Convention. Basically, the Berne Convention of 1886 involved European nations coming together to seek a uniform copyright law to keep their copyright owners from having to register for copyrights in individuals European countries. The United States signed on to the Berne Convention introduced made it into a U.S. law known as the Berne Implementation Act of 1988.

If you are seeking to have your work protected in a particular country, you need to find out what kind of protection foreign authors have in that country. Some countries offer little or no protection to foreign authors. The U.S. Copyright Office is not allowed to give authors recommendations or the names of attorneys or agents that could help them understand foreign copyright laws. However, with a little investigation it is not hard to find someone who is an expert on foreign copyright law. These individuals can help you learn more about copyright protection and how your work is deemed in a foreign country.

Someone who works in international copyright law will tell you that it is different than most other sectors of law. It involves knowing the copyright law of two or more countries. Every country has their own way of granting and protecting someone’s copyright. The individual criteria of each country must be taken into consideration when you are dealing with international copyright law. Some countries do not have any intellectual property rights and some countries even grant more copyright protections than the United States. International copyright laws involve understanding international treaties and conventions, like the Berne Treaty and WIPO Copyright Treaty. If you are interested in pursuing a degree in law, you may want to explore the international copyright law sector. With the world becoming one big neighborhood, you will probably not lack work.

People with copyrighted works need to be aware that there are differences in the copyright laws in some nations. While it is true the United States has signed treaties with some nations, your work will not be protected in every country of the world. As stated, the United States is a member of the Berne Treaty. In addition, the United States is a member of the WIPO Copyright Treaty. This treaty works in conjunction with the Berne Treaty, yet it also covers and gives protection to databases and computer programs. If you would like more information on international copyright law, you should check with an attorney who specializes in international copyright law.

About The Author

Richard Cunningham is a freelance journalist who covers copyright law for Download his free e-book, “Copyright Basics” at

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