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International Copyright Protection: Fact Or Myth?
By Brian Scott
There are many myths surrounding the issue of copyright. One of the most common is the idea that there is some sort of universally accepted international copyright protection.
As nice as it would be in our global economy to have some sort of clear international regime in place to govern copyrights and their violations, there is none. There is no international copyright protection.
Generally speaking, protection is governed by the country in which a copyright is claimed or in which a violation is alleged. Most countries do have copyright regulations in place, but their terms may vary considerably.
Some nations actively cooperate with the U.S. on copyright relations and the U.S. Copyright Office provides information about those agreements and methods for handling international copyright disputes.
As mentioned in the introduction to this ebook, there are resources available regarding copyright considerations in other countries. If you have an issue with potential infringement and are willing to do your homework, you may be able to come to grips with the intricacies of international copyright laws and how to apply them to your specific case.
More often than not, however, international copyright issues are too complicated (and often, too costly) for the average person to pursue. This is a particular problem in today’s global economy when a competing website could steal materials from another one without any real fear of legal repercussions.
Widgets.com could steal from GoodWidgets.com without too much concern, it might seem, if one site is run from England and the other from Azerbaijan.
It is worth noting, however, that many web site hosts that aren’t located in the U.S. are still willing to voluntarily enforce the provisions of the DMCA (which we’ll soon discuss in greater detail). One should not, however, assume that a non-U.S. entity will ever bend to U.S. law. They don’t need to do so and they probably won’t absent an international agreement to the contrary.
Fortunately, many international agreements are in place. The Berne Convention, for instance, has more than one hundred signatories to the treaty who are obliged to provide copyright protections to authors.
The General Agreement on Trades and Tariffs (GATT) treaty also contains some copyright protection provisions.
These treaties have successfully allowed many authors to enforce their rights in other jurisdictions. However, when it comes to copyright, the key factors are often very detailed and differences in laws can result in outcomes one may not anticipate.
Additionally, even though various treaty regimes do assist in copyright protection, the rapidly changing nature of online communication has left some gaps in the system, complicating matters for online copyright holders.