What Companies Should Know about International Copyright Law

Copyright protection assigns specific rights to its author as long as the work meets various criteria. The primary purpose of copyright protection is to encourage idea sharing and development.

Copyright provides a framework for how relationships should work for everyone involved: copyright holders, content providers, and consumers of the content. With guidelines in place to benefit all parties, people have more incentives to share their creative works.

When it comes to sharing work globally, the law gets more complicated. Here are three key issues you should understand about protecting creative work internationally. 

For specific questions about international copyright, an intellectual property attorney can provide proper guidance.

There are two types of rights.

If you own the copyright to a particular work, it is your right to identify as the work’s author, your right to say what can and cannot be changed about it, and your exclusive right to decide when it is made public. 

These concepts are referred to as moral rights. Except for special circumstances, these rights are non-transferrable. Additionally, they never expire. 

The economic (or exploitation) rights are the basis for how commercial conditions are usually set and disputed in a court of law. A rightsholder has virtually complete control over the copyrighted material — including use, transfer, licensing, or sale of its rights.

Only certain types of work are protected.

Understand from the outset that international copyright is a concept, not global law. 

Individual countries around the world each have their own set of copyright protection laws. However, 176 of 195 countries have agreed to a certain set of minimum protection standards.

Every country has its own detailed explanation and scope of what material does and does not qualify for copyright. But for the most part, these works are protected everywhere:

  • drawings 
  • essays 
  • novels 
  • films 
  • musical compositions 
  • paintings 
  • photographs 
  • plays 
  • poems 
  • scientific articles 
  • sculptures 
  • short stories 
  • software
  • other 2-D and 3-D artwork 
  • other audiovisual works 
  • other literary works

If you have a specific type of work not listed here, an IP attorney can help identify whether or not it is covered by international copyright laws.

The minimum length of protection is life plus 50 years.

Finally, you should be aware of how long your work may be protected internationally. 

Here in the U.S., your work remains protected for your entire life plus 70 years after your death. However, under the Berne Convention, the duration may only be equal to your life plus 50, due to a globally agreed-upon minimum. 

Are You Ready to Take Copyrighted Work Internationally?

You now have a general understanding of how international copyright is intended to work and what that may mean for you as a creator and rightsholder. 

However, because of the intricacies of copyright laws specific to jurisdiction, every scenario must be reviewed and evaluated based on its specific circumstances. It is always a good idea to consult with an experienced intellectual property attorney when questions arise. You can reach out to Marks Gray IP attorney Crystal Broughan at 904-807-2180 or [email protected]