International Copyright Protection

Your work can be protected in 120 countries

Over 120 nations have signed treaties in which they agree to extend reciprocal copyright protection to works authored by nationals of the other signing countries as well as works first published in one of the other signing countries. This reciprocal approach is commonly called “national treatment.”

The two main copyright treaties are the Berne Convention and the Universal Copyright Convention (U.C.C.), both of which the United States has signed. To the extent the provisions of these two treaties overlap, the author is entitled to the most liberal protection available—usually found in the Berne Convention.


Most countries of the world have ratified GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), which binds them to comply with the provisions of the Berne Convention (except for its moral rights provision) whether or not they are already members. The GATT treaty makes the Berne Convention by far the most important international treaty; the U.C.C. will play an increasingly minor role in international copyright protection.

Berne Convention

Besides establishing reciprocal protection rights, the Berne Convention also establishes the minimum protections that must be afforded and specifies that no formalities—such as copyright notice—are required for gaining such protection. The Berne Convention does not impose on any country a definition of what can and cannot be copyrighted, but virtually all of the signatory countries (and GATT members) will fully protect such traditional items as books, art works, movies, and plays. In addition, GATT requires that all members treat computer programs as literary works under the Berne Convention.


Authors seeking to invoke international protection under the Berne Convention (authors in the U.S. and in most large industrialized nations, including all nations that ratify the GATT treaty) need not apply any copyright notice to their works.

Authors seeking to invoke international copyright protection under the Universal Copyright Convention (the relatively few countries that have not signed the Berne Convention or the GATT treaty) must use the following notice: “ © (year of publication) (author or other basic copyright owner).” For example, the correct U.C.C. notice for this article would be: “ © 2013 Nolo.”


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