International Copyright Protection: Berne Convention and UCC

Many countries including the United States maintain bilateral treaties with regarding copyright protection and may also be party to several conventions that allow for copyright protection. The most important international agreements are the Berne Union for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Property, or the Berne Convention, and the Universal Copyright Convention, or UCC.

It is worth noting that the United States is a signatory to both the UCC and the Berne Convention, and the UCC explicitly states that agreement to the stricter Berne Convention supersedes the provisions of the UCC. Therefore, most often, US copyright holders will depend on the Berne Convention to protect their work overseas. The UCC applies only in countries that have signed the UCC but have refused to become a party to the Berne Convention. 


The Berne Convention

There are four salient features of the Berne Convention: national treatment, preclusion of formalities, minimum terms of protection, and minimum exclusive rights.

National Treatment: Signatories to the Berne Convention have agreed to treat foreign copyright owners as legally equal to domestic copyright holders. This means that, for example, an American author publishing a book in France would have the same rights as a French author publishing in the same market.

Preclusion of Formalities: Under the Berne Convention, neither formal registration nor publication of a copyright notice can be required in order to procure a copyright. It is worth noting, however, that signatory nations retain the right to make formal procedures useful in challenge proceedings. For example, a copyright notice in the United States can be used to invalidate a defense of "innocent infringement" by a copyright violator.

Minimum Terms of Protection: Nations party to the Berne Convention must extend copyright protection through the life of the author plus 50 years. However, nations may extend protection longer.

Minimum Exclusive Rights: Under the Berne Convention, copyright holders must be guaranteed six rights for the entire life of the copyright: translation, reproduction, public performance, adaptation, paternity, and integrity.
 

The Universal Copyright Convention

The Universal Copyright Convention (UCC) is considerably less stringent than the Berne Convention in the following significant ways:

1. It allows signatory nations to require formal registration and/or publication of a notice for prospective copyright holders.

2. Copyright protection must last only 25 years after the death of the author or the date of first publication, depending on the laws of the signatory nation.

3. Copyright holders only retain, at a minimum, the rights of translation, reproduction, and public performance.


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