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Understanding Effect of Berne Convention

Effect Of Berne Convention

The Berne Convention was one of the first international agreements involving copyright law. It was held in Berne, Switzerland in 1886. It is also known as the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.

The Berne Convention looked to copyright protect all works the moment they have been created. The Convention was based on the idea of "right of author" and "copyright". The creators of the Convention believed once a work was placed in a fixed form such as on a piece of paper, or a work was expressed or declared, all the ownership would remain with the original creator.

Ownership included any derivative work that came about from the original work. Protection from the Berne Convention did not require any filing or paperwork to apply for ownership. Only an expression of creation was needed to have full ownership of a created work. The Berne Convention offered equal protection for all members of any nation that signed on to agree to the Convention.


The United States initially did not want to join the Berne Convention because it offered too much protection for creators of a work. The United States did not like the way the Berne Convention did not require mandatory registration of copyrights or copyright notice. The United States believed the amount of protection offered would limit the number of new creations that could be copyrighted.

Because the United States and some other nations were not fond of the Berne Convention’s policies, the Universal Copyright Convention was held in 1952. The United States, Soviet Union and many Latin American countries joined the Universal Copyright Convention. There were less copyright laws offered about issues, such as the amount of time a copyright would remain copyrighted. They also preferred having to fill out copyright forms rather than simply creating a work on a tangible medium. The Berne Convention threatened to take away any copyrighted material from a nation that joined the rival Universal Copyright Convention.

In 1989, the United States decided to join the Berne Convention. The Universal Copyright Convention had almost no power following the departure of the United States and the Convention was soon dissolved. The Berne Convention would evolve into the United International Bureaux for the Protection of Intellectual Property and moved closer to the United Nations.

The United International Bureaux for the Protection of Intellectual Property would then become the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The WIPO would then become an organization within the United Nations. There are now 164 countries that share copyright laws under what was once known as the Berne Convention. The laws of the Berne Convention are now so widely accepted that it forces non-members to accept its copyright laws regardless of their own copyright agreements.

NEXT: What You Need to Know About the Protection of Published and Unpublished Works

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