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Copyright: International Treaties

    Copyright law is obviously of global importance both to the developed world and also to the emerging (and increasingly powerful) developing world (e.g. China, India, Brazil, etc.). The Internet is everywhere and nowhere. It is the omnipresent communications infrastructure of the global economy as well as the  infrastructure of choice for local economies. Copyright law is "foundational" and underpins all of it.

    What follows is a brief summary of relevant treaties. As always, links are provided to more in depth treatment and, where appropriate, to specific treaty language. This cursory introduction cannot begin to address the myriad of complexities associated with international copyright law. Suffice it to say that this topic (and international intellectual property law in general) will remain "front and center" as globalization continues to impact the world economy in the years ahead.

    The Berne Convention

    This is the grandfather of international copyright treaties. The full text is available here on the World Intellectual Property Organization's (WIPO) website. WIPO is an authoritative source for international intellectual property law including: copyright, patents, trademarks, and more. Victor Hugo played a significant role as a proponent of the initial treaty, and hence it continues to maintain a heavy international copyright law legacy (e.g. the inclusion of "moral rights"). The Berne treaty requires no formalities with respect to obtaining the respective "bundle of rights." It was first accepted in 1886, but the U.S. did not become a signatory until well over a hundred years later (i.e. March 1, 1989).

    Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)

    TRIPS is administered by the World Trade Organization(WTO) and the full text can be found on the WTO website here. TRIPS mandates minimum intellectual property (IP) rights that all signatories must provide, including rights specific to copyright imported by and large from Berne. Its mission can best be summarized by the introductory language of its preamble:

    "Desiring  to reduce distortions and impediments to international trade, and taking into account the need to promote effective and adequate protection of intellectual property rights, and to ensure that measures and procedures to enforce intellectual property rights do not themselves become barriers to legitimate trade;. . .[We] Hereby agree as follows:"

    TRIPS was negotiated as part of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1994 and remains the single most encompassing treaty regarding international IP.

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