An Introduction to Copyright Law

This article seeks to provide the reader with an introduction into copyright law around the world. It outlines international laws and national laws.

This article seeks to provide the reader with a basic introduction of international copyright law. This article will address international copyright law rather than specify one particular jurisdiction because copyright protection is now truly global affair. Copyright owners in one jurisdiction are largely seeking to protect their rights, both in their own country and abroad. With the spread of the internet, the dissemination of copyrighted material is now easily, quickly and in some cases freely available all over the world where there is an internet connection. Copyright infringement is now a truly global affair and the international legal framework for the protection of intellectual property rights has been steadily developing over the 20th and 21st Centuries.

Copyright law was first brought about in England in the 16th Century, with the Statute of Anne in 1710. The prominence and importance of such laws has been increasing ever since, until the present day where we are continually bombarded with news stories about mass copyright infringement of books, movies and music over the internet.

This article seeks to outline the many laws, both national and international to provide an introduction to the laws surrounding intellectual property law, and more specifically, copyright protection.

The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, a.k.a. the Berne Convention, was the first international agreement convened in 1886. The Berne Convention required all its member states to recognize the copyright of authors. The Berne Convention required member countries to provide at least a 50 years after the death of the author for the term of copyright protection, although members could fix a longer term should they want to.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) required that member states adopt the provisions contained in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) in 1994. TRIPS also specifies enforcement procedures, remedies, and dispute resolution procedures for the infringement of intellectual property rights, including copyright.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty 1996, requires members to adhere to the Berne Convention, it also added further copyright protection to authors of works, due to the advances in technology. For example, computer programs are protected as literary works and databases are protected for their arrangement and selection of material.

Countries that adhere to these rules create laws within their jurisdiction to protect such rights. This article is going to focus on the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Countries don't simply apply international agreements, they create laws that reflect the agreement, in this case, WIPO's Copyright Treaty and the Berne Convention.

The European Union Council Directive 93/98/EEC of 29 October 1993 harmonizing the term of protection of copyright and certain related rights sought to harmonize laws throughout the European Union. It even offered a greater protection of 70 years rather than the 50 years of protection of copyright as prescribed by the Berne Convention. The EU Copyright Directive (Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonization of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society or Infosoc Directive) was implemented in 2001, this applied the rules as contained in the WIPO Copyright Treaty.

Under EU law, countries either accept directives as law as they are made or implement laws to protect the provisions in the particular directive. The UK's Copyright Law Act 1988 was created before this date, but also contains the 70 years minimum for authors. The UK implements EU directives with regulations and the Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003 No. 2498 implemented this directive.

In the United States of America, copyright law is protected federally by Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of the constitution, it states: "The Congress shall have Power [. . .] To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." The most recent law governing copyright protection in the United States is the U.S. Copyright Law, October 2009 as amended by the the Copyright Cleanup, Clarification, and Corrections Act of 2010.

To conclude, this article has sought to provide the reader with a basic introduction into copyright law. Intellectual property rights is a subject that is continually discussed worldwide and is always evolving to help protect copyrighted works. The area of intellectual property law is huge, and by no means has this article set out to give the reader an understanding of copyright law, but merely to show the reader what laws are in place for the protection of copyright around the world. The information contained in this article is a basis to find out more about copyright law.


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