There is no such thing as an “international copyright” that will automatically protect an author's writings throughout the world. Protection against unauthorized use in a particular country depends on the national laws of that country. However, most countries offer protection to foreign works under certain conditions that have been greatly simplified by international copyright treaties and conventions. There are several such treaties and conventions affecting copyright. Click on the map to learn more about the treaties.
|Convention or Treaty||Member Parties, including the US|
|Berne (various texts)||176|
Circular 38a sets forth United States copyright relations of current interest with the other independent nations of the world. There is no such thing as an "international copyright" that will automatically protect an author’s writings throughout the world. Protection against unauthorized use in a particular country depends on the national laws of that country. However, most countries offer protection to foreign works under certain conditions that have been greatly simplified by international copyright treaties and conventions. There are several such treaties and conventions affecting copyright, including the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works; the Universal Copyright Convention; the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty; the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty; and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, one of several agreements that together led to the creation of the World Trade Organization on January 1, 1995.
An author who wants copyright protection for his or her work in a particular country should first determine the extent of the protection available to works of foreign authors in that country. If possible, this should be done before the work is published anywhere, because protection may depend on the facts existing at the time of first publication. If the country in which protection is sought is a party to one of the international copyright conventions, the work generally can be protected by complying with the conditions of that convention. Even if the work cannot be brought under an international convention, protection under the specific provisions of the country's national laws may still be possible. There are, however, some countries that offer little or no copyright protection to any foreign works. For current information on the requirements of and protection provided by other countries, it may be advisable to consult an expert familiar with foreign copyright laws. The U.S. Copyright Office is not permitted to recommend agents or attorneys or to give legal advice on foreign laws.
I came across Circular 38a during my research, and its static nature bothered me. So, I made this map application. Reading Circular 38a made me realize how dastardly complicated IP is, certainly way beyond my ken. This mess of international agreements and complicated language are all the more reason for Creative Commons licenses. For most normal human beings, CC is really the only pragmatic, feasible, practical, humane way to express, expect, enforce and be heedful of one’s rights in works globally.