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History of International Copyright

The Statute of Anne

Known also as the Copyright Act of 1709, The Statute of Anne is generally regarded as the origin of copyright law, for it not only granted publishers their initial protection, but also established a basic set of standards on which most future copyright laws were founded, as well as delineated the rules of copyright infringement. The statute was named after Queen Anne , who ruled the United Kingdom during the acts inception. Though it was usually circulated under its shorter title, the statute's full name is “An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned.” The act set out to provide several key provisions:

  • Gave protection to book publishers by granting them a 14 year long period of legal protection, after the act commenced.
  • Additionally, it gave authors of books already in print a 21 year long period.
  • Allowed publishers to renew 14 year contract term if they were still alive after the first term's expiration.
  • Recognized legal right of authorship.

The Statute of Anne also defined the terms of copyright infringement and what exactly constituted such a crime. Like its name, “copyright” was meant to protect the “copy” of a work. The Statute of Anne helped determine that “copy” is the liberty of “printing and/or reprinting” a book. It also established that this liberty could be infringed upon by anyone who imported, printed, or reprinted a book without consent.

Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property
The Paris Convention was one of the first intellectual properties treaties. The Paris Convention was signed in Paris in 1883 by 11 countries, including Belgium, Brazil, France, Guatamala, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, El Salvador, Serbia, Spain, and Switzerland. The Convention currently has 173 members, including the United States, making it one of the most widely accepted international treaties.


The Paris Convention covers a broad range of property rights, including patents, marks, designs, utility models, and trade names. The Paris Convention:

  • Requires participating countries to treat industrial works from other countries with the same rules and regulations they apply to works from their own country
  • Provides for the right of priority in patents, marks, and industrial designs
  • States that patents for the same invention granted in one country are independent; they do not need to be granted by others
  • States that the inventor has a right to be called the inventor within the patent
  • Does not regulate conditions for filing and registering marks - it is determined by each countries' own laws.
  • Each country must refuse registration and prohibit use of marks that are liable to create confusion, or marks which bear official emblems or signs of a country
  • Industrial designs must be protected by each country
  • Trade names must be protected by each country without the obligation of filing or registration
  • Each country must take protective measures against unfair competition

Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works

The Berne Convention was one of the two treaties that made up BIRPI, and was an international agreement governing copyrights. It was signed in 1886 in Berne, Switzerland. The Berne Convention:

  • Requires participating countries to treat copyrighted works from other countries with the same rules and regulations they apply to works from their own country
  • Requires participants to provide strong minimum standards for copyright law
  • States that all works (except photographic and cinematographic) must be copyrighted for a minimum of 50 years after the author's death
  • States that photography must be copyrighted a minimum of 25 years form the creation of the photo, and films must be copyrighted for a minimum of 50 years after their first showing.
  • Set up a bureau to handle administration (which eventually turned into BIRPI, which, in turn, changed into WIPO)

The World Trade Organization requires non-members to accept most conditions of the Berne Convention under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. There are currently 164 parties to the Berne Convention, including the United States.

BIRPI - Bureaux Internationaux Réunis pour la Protection de la Propriété Intellectuelle (or the United International Bureaux for the Protection of Intellectual Property)

BIRPI was an international organization set up in 1893 when the international bureaus that administered the Berne and Paris Conventions merged. After BIRPI made its move from Berne to Sweden, it began making its transition into the organization now known as WIPO.

The Buenos Aires Convention

Signed in 1910 in Buenos Aires, this convention is a copyright treaty between the United States and the following American Republics: Argentine Republic, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Salvador, Uruguay, and Venezuela. The treat calls for the mutual acceptance of copyrights in which the work carried a notice regarding the reservation of rights. The most common example of this is the use of the “all rights reserved” phrase usually attached next to the copyright notice.

Under the Buenos Aires Convention, copyright protection is dictated by the shorter of the two terms of either the protecting country or the source country of the work in question. Due to the lack of clarity in several provisions of international copyright law, the Buenos Aires Convention was created to help designate the source country of a specific work. Once the source country is determined, the term of protection that can be applied is much easier to prescribe. If a work is published in both a non-Convention state as well as a Convention state, the Convention state is considered to be the source country.

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

Introduced in 1994 and currently administered by the World Trade Organization (WTO) , the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is an international agreement that establishes basic standards for intellectual property regulation. The primary goal of TRIPS is to enforce and protect intellectual property rights to “promote technological innovation” in a manner “conducive to social and economic welfare”. It achieves this by stipulating requirements that each nation must meet with respect to copyright rights, trademarks, patents, trade dress, confidential information, etc. Because of the breadth of its scope and coverage, TRIPS is regarded as the single most comprehensive agreement on intellectual property there is. Some of the key requirements that TRIPS outlines are as follows:

  • Copyright terms will extend to 50 years after the death of the author.
  • All copyrights are to be granted automatically and must not be based on formality.
  • Computer programs are considered to be “literary works” and as such are subject to the same terms and protection.
  • Patents are to be granted to all fields of technology.
  • IP laws in each state cannot offer benefits to its citizens that are not readily available to other citizens of TRIPS signatories

World Intellectual Property Organization - WIPO


WIPO , also known as the World Intellectual Property Organization, was created by the WIPO Convention in 1967 "to encourage creative activity, to promote the protection of intellectual property throughout the world", and became a specialized agency of the United Nations in 1970. WIPO was based very heavily off of BIRPI, or the United International Bureaux for the Protection of Intellectual Property, which administered the Berne Convention and Paris Convention (please see above).

WIPO currently has 184 member countries, including almost all members of the United Nations itself. WIPO's headquarters is located in Geneva, Switzerland. WIPO recieves roughly 90% of its annual budget through international registraation ad filings, and the rest from contributions. WIPO has an income of more than 300 million Swiss francs (or $281,929,016).

Functions
WIPO oversees many different areas of intellectual property rights and protection worldwide, including:

  • Promotion and protection of intellectual property worldwide
  • Overseeing, administering, and enforcing its treaties
  • Assisting governments in monitoring developments in intellectual property related areas
  • Maintaining WIPOnet, a network linking intellectual property offices of its participants
  • Engages in domain name dispute resolution


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