Berne Convention


The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, sometimes called the Berne Union or Berne Convention , adopted at Berne in 1886, first established the recognition of copyrights between sovereign nations. It was developed at the instigation of Victor Hugo. Prior to the adoption of the Berne Convention, nations would often refuse to recognize the works of foreign nationals as copyrighted. Thus, for instance, a work published in London by a British national would be protected by copyright in the United Kingdom, but freely reproducible by France; likewise, a work published in Paris by a French national would be protected by copyright in France, but freely reproducible in the United Kingdom.

The Berne Convention provided that each contracting state would recognize as copyrighted works created by nationals of other contracting states. Copyright under the Berne Convention is automatic: no registration is required, nor is the inclusion of a copyright notice. Additionally, signatories to The Berne Convention were prohibited from requiring any such registration-type formality on foreign authors that would interfere with the "enjoyment and exercise" of copyright. (Signatories are still free to impose registration or publication requirements on domestic authors or those from non-signatory nations, but in practice this is rarely if ever done.)

The Berne Convention provided for a minimum term of copyright protection of the life of the author plus fifty years, but parties were free to provide longer terms of copyright protection, as the European Union did with the 1993 Directive on harmonising the term of copyright protection. The United States followed with the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998.

The United States refused initially to become a party to the Convention, since it would have required major changes in its copyright law (particularly with regard to moral rights and the registration of copyright works). Thus the Universal Copyright Convention was adopted in 1952, to cater to its objections. In 1989, the United States became a party to the Berne Convention. In accordance with the Convention, inclusion of a copyright notice is no longer a requirement for copyright protection.

The Berne Convention has been revised a few times: Berlin (1908), Rome (1928), Brussels (1948), Stockholm (1967) and Paris (1971). Since 1967, the Berne Convention has been administered by WIPO, the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Since almost all nations are members of the World Trade Organization, the TRIPs Agreement requires non-members to accept almost all of the conditions of the Berne Convention.

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