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International Copyright: Harmonization, Enforcement & Extension
by World-Information.Org

++ International Copyright ++ Links ++

When the printing press was introduced into England in 1476, the need for the protection of printed works occurred for the first time. The crown's grant of the printing patent that gave one entity a monopoly on the printing of certain works may be seen as the probable genesis of copyright law. Enacted by the British Parliament in 1710 the Statue of Anne that recognized that authors should be the primary beneficiaries of copyright law marked a milestone in the history of copyright law. It also, for the first time, provided legal protection for consumers of copyrighted works by curtailing the term of a copyright.

Later, with the development of technology in communications in the industrial age, concerns over the protection of authors' rights increased on an international scale. This finally led to the adoption of the Berne Convention in 1886, which was a diplomatic joinder of European nations seeking to establish a mutually satisfactory uniform copyright law to replace the need for separate registration in every country. Since then copyright law has continuously been modified and adapted whereby concerning international modern-day copyright law a recent trend towards harmonization, enforcement and extension can be noted.

Harmonization & Enforcement

When worldwide economic integration took off in the 1950s and intellectual property became an important factor in international commerce, differences in copyright legislation around the world became a source of tension in international economic relations. As a consequence, industry and politicians started efforts to harmonize and enforce existing IPRs (intellectual property rights). In 1988, when the Association of Transnational Corporations of the U.S., Europe and Japan submitted a joint paper on IPRs to GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs & Trade), a significant change in the global debate on IPRs occurred. The association, neither a member nor an observer in GATT, first placed IPRs on the GATT agenda.

Following difficult negotiations in the Uruguay Round in 1993, the WTO/TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement was finally accepted by the member states of the newly formed WTO (World Trade Organization) in 1995. It determines that members of the WTO must set up systems to protect IPRs within their borders and ensure that IPRs can be enforced under their laws. TRIPS can be combined with cross-retaliation, which means that a country found to be contravening the TRIPS Agreement, would for example be subject to retaliation in terms of its trade in goods, though goods are covered by a different agreement.

The main elements of the TRIPs Agreement, the harmonization of national legislation and the enforcement of IPRs are also key concepts in the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) Copyright Treaty of 1996 and the EU Directive on Copyright and Related Rights in the Information Society of 2001.


In a single year, 1999, the total U.S. copyright industries contributed an estimated US$ 677,9 billion to the U.S. economy, accounting for approximately 7,33 % of GDP. Receiving relatively little public attention, the intellectual property industry's share in U.S. foreign sales nevertheless surpasses that of almost all other leading industries, including chemicals, electronic components, aircraft, motor vehicles and computers. On a global scale, intellectual property has become an extremely important economic factor.

Arguing that digitalization requires a stronger protection of authors in order to encourage innovation and creativity, the copyright industry has not only pushed for an enforcement, but also for an extension of IPRs on a global level. For example, while the first Copyright Act in the U.S. concerned only the exclusive right to print, publish and vend a copyrighted work for a period of fourteen years, with the possibility of a one-time renewal, current U.S. copyright legislation grants copyright owners also the right to control public performances of their work as well as adaptations and reproductions. Furthermore, as a result of the U.S. Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, the basic term of copyright now lasts for the life of the author plus seventy years. Yet this development is not limited to the U.S., but symptomatic for the global trend towards a stronger protection of creators. The TRIPS Agreement has introduced a rental right, the WIPO Copyright Treaty has incorporated a communication right, and, just like the EU Directive on Copyright and the U.S. DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act), is designed to prevent the circumvention of technological measures. Most of those developments, backed by organizations such as the WTO and the ICC (International Chamber of Commerce), explicitly favor copyright holders which are in general the big content owning corporations, and put consumers' rights second place.


++ LINKS ++

WTO/TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights)

New Copyright and Database Regulations: USPTO, WIPO, and You. (by John Unsworth, University of Virginia)

Opposing Copyright Extension (by Dennis S. Karjala, Arizona State University)

Copyright, Intellectual Property Rights, and Licensing Issues

Digital Future Coalition

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