copyright You may have never heard of the Berne Convention but it’s a very import international treaty governing copyrights.  Here’s a brief overview.  The Berne Convention was first adopted in Berne, Switzerland in 1886 and requires its signatory countries to safeguard the copyrights of a work created in other signatory countries as it would protect those of its own country.

This means that if a work is protected by copyright in one Berne Convention nation it is automatically protected in all other Berne Convention nations. Currently, there are 165 countries that are party to the Convention including the United States, which joined on March 1, 1989. Initially, the United States declined to become a party as it would have required drastic changes in its copyright law particularly with regards to moral rights, removal of the general requirement of registration of copyrighted works and elimination of the mandatory copyright notice.

Article 2 of the Convention, which governs the type of work protected, applies to “every production in the literary, scientific and artistic domain, whatever may be the mode or form of its expression.” The Berne Convention primarily authorizes two groups of protective rights for copyright works: economic rights and moral rights rooted in the copyright work itself.

Under the Berne Convention, all works are protected for at least 50 years after the author’s death with the following exception: (1) for photography, the minimum term is 25 years from the year the photograph was created; and (2) For cinematography, the minimum term is 50 years after first showing, or, if the work has never been shown, 50 years from the creation date.

The Berne Convention may be thought of as the mother of copyright treaties. Articles from the Berne Convention have been incorporated in several other international copyright treaties. For example, Article 9(2) of the Berne Convention, which addresses the exclusive rights of reproduction has been directly implemented and extended into the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), the WIPO Copyright Treaty, the EU Copyright Directive and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty. TRIPS Article 30, covering limitations and exemptions to patent law, is also derived from the Berne Convention.

If you would like to learn more about the convention, a good place to start is Wikipedia.

— Ash Tankha