International Copyright Law

Copyrights apply and are effective also internationally. This follows the principle of territoriality and the so-called “Lex loci protexionis”. Copyright infringements are ruled by the laws of the respective country. The national rules of this state determine the development, content and scope of the copyright. The author receives a copyright only in the respective state in which it exists according to its regulations. Foreigner’s provisions may differ from the national ones. If, for example, a copyright infringement is asserted in another state before a German court, then it must also be stated how this copyright has been created and infringed in regards to the legal ordainments of the state. The German court therefore has to apply the law of the foreign state (because of the “lex loci protexionis” principle).

Is there an internationally recognized copyright? 

No; instead, there is a large number of international copyright agreements, such as the Berne Convention (RBC or RBÜ, as it is called in Germany) of 1886 and the TRIPS of 1994; both are actually the most important international copyright agreements. The WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) also represents one of the most important international agreements. This regulates copyright´s matters in order to keep the RBC up to date. The WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) covers related rights of performers and phonogram producers separately. 

What does the Berne Convention regulate? 

The Berne Convention (Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works) was last updated in 1979. Accordingly to Article 5 of the RBC, each Contracting State must recognize the protection of works of its own citizens. However, this has the consequence that the foreign author can be entitled to different rights in the different country, as these are differently regulated in the respective target states (contrary to the “lex loci protexionis” principle).  Nowadays, about 158 states have joined the RBC. Subsequent international agreements generally allow the RBC to be considered at least “supplementary” to the state territorial provisions.

What does the TRIPS include?

The TRIPS is an annex of the WTO provisions. Any State that wants to join the WTO must also ratify TRIPS.  Currently, the WTO and TRIPS have about 149 members. However, copyright is not the only aspect that is regulated by these agreements; they also concern the basic features of a free trade economy, while maintaining all IP rights, including in particular the technical property rights and ancillary copyrights. In addition, the member states may develop their own fundamental limits of protection.

Which effect do international agreements have?

Just like any simple contract, international agreements only work between the contracting parties, in this case, the countries that have signed them.