Is there such a thing as a universal international copyright law? Copyright expert Fred Haber gives a quick overview of copyright protection from a global perspective.
As a copyright lawyer, I very frequently get asked about international copyright law. And the short answer, like it or not, is there’s no such thing as international copyright law. I guess we could stop this video right here.
But, in reality, that’s not the whole story. The story goes on. Copyright law exists in almost every country in the world, and most every country is a member of something called the Berne Convention, which is an international treaty that was first signed back in 1880. Yeah, 1880 – that’s 135 years ago. At that time, a bunch of European countries got together and said, ‘You know what? If we’re going to each have copyright, our copyright laws should be as similar as possible, so that the artists in our country – whether they write books or they make music or they make paintings or whatever – will know what protections they have from country to country.’ Pretty good idea. However, not everybody has exactly the same details. The United States joined it in 1988 – yes, 108 years later. The United States was the last major country to join the Berne Convention.
What the Berne Convention does is, it sets a set of minimum rules that demand that, in order for the copyright protection to carry from country to country, that certain rules be complied with: what’s protected by copyright, generally how long copyright can last. It can vary, but there’s a minimum of the Berne Convention of lasting for the lifetime of the creator plus 50 years. There are also other kinds of variations that go from country to country. But, on the whole, the law is similar enough from country to country that once you get copyright protection in your home country, you’re going to get more or less the same kind of protection around the world.
It’s not international copyright law, but it’s a lot like it.