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  • Writer's pictureOishika Banerji

International copyright regime: a telescopic view

With growing trade and commerce across the globe, a dynamic shift can be significantly noticed within the intellectual property regime. Restricting the discussion to the boundaries of copyright for the purpose of this article, in order to understand the biography of the international copyright regime there comes a need to dive into the legal framework governing the same.

The very first multilateral convention on copyright that came into existence in 1886 was the Berne Convention For The Protection Of Literary And Artistic Works, 1886. Given birth with the purpose of protecting the rights of authors associated with their literary and artistic works, the Berne Convention has been modified a number of times in order to work at par with the technological alterations. The Convention covers the aspect of moral rights which remains at stake due to technological interference in current times. There exists two underlying principle on the basis of which the Convention functions;

  • National treatment; which symbolizes that the same level of protection must be provided to every member nation of the Berne Convention.

  • Automatic protection; which states that rights exercised under the principle of national treatment shall be existing independently, without being subjected to the protections already provided by the country of origin of the work.

With the United States and the Soviet Union along with several other countries not being members of the Berne Convention due to the high level of protection offered, the Universal Copyright Convention, 1952 was given shape to remove existing hurdles in the copyright system thereby offering protection to literary, scientific and artistic works that included writings, dramatic, musical, and cinematographic works, and engravings, paintings, and sculpture. The UCC also obligates the contracting States to provide effective safeguard mechanisms for author's rights that comprise reproduction, broadcasting, and public performance rights.

The definition of performers was provided under the Rome Convention For The Protection Of Performers, Producers Of Phonograms, And Broadcasting Organizations, 1961 which obligates the contracting States to extend protection to the phonograms of producers of phonograms, performances of performers, and broadcasts belonging to broadcasting organizations. The Geneva Convention For The Protection Of Phonograms Against Unauthorized Duplication Of Their Phonograms, 1971 followed the Rome Convention with the following three objectives;

  • prohibiting making or reproducing outlawed duplicates of original work to be distributed in the public domain;

  • restricting the importation of the duplicates mentioned in the previous point;

  • preventing the distribution of such duplicates.

In 1974, the Brussels Convention Relating To The Distribution of Programme Carrying Signals Transmitted By Satellite was created to prevent increasing unauthorized dissemination of program-carrying signal on or from any of its member states, by a distributor for whom the signal passing through the satellite was not intended. However, direct broadcasting satellites are excluded from the provisions of this Convention. With the rising need for increasing legal security provided to audio-visual works, the Treaty On The International Registration Of Audiovisual Works was introduced in 1989 to the copyright regime. The purpose behind this treaty is to register the statements and rights in relation to exploitation in concern with audiovisual works.

With the TRIPS Agreement coming into effect in 1995 and the growing technological hunt, it was realized that several grey areas exist within the copyright regime that has not been addressed yet. To bridge the growing gap existing between statutory protection and digital technology, the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT), 1996, a special agreement that fell within the meaning provided to Article 20 of the Berne Convention, was adopted by the WIPO Diplomatic Conference on Certain Copyright and Neighboring Right Questions. This treaty was a classic example of modern copyright law as it intends to shield these two subject matters;

  • computer programs existing in any mode or expressive form, and

  • any material database or data compilation that qualifies to be an intellectual creation.

Along with this, the three exclusive rights provided by WCT to the authors are;

  • The Right to distribution

  • The Right to rental

  • The Right to communicate to the public.

Previously we have dealt with treaties specific to performances and phonograms, but as it has become necessary to include the technological metamorphosis, the WIPO Performances, And Phonograms Treaty, 1996 deserves a discussion. Both the economic and moral rights of an author are recognized by WPPT. The term of protection provided by WPPT is 50 years. This being the minimum term of protection, the treaty makes it obligatory for the contracting States to impart legal remedies and reliefs against technological interventions by means of encryption which is often resorted to by the performers.

WPPT had not extend its protection to performances fixed in audiovisual fixation, which brough in the Beijing Treaty On Audiovisual Performances, 2012. Along with provising the definition for audiovisual fixation, the Treaty aims to lay down an uniform manner of developing and preservation of the protection of the performers rights. The Treaty further provides robustness to the economic rights of actors working in films by providing them with extra earnings. It further prevents lack of attribution of the performaces by the performers thereby safeguarding the moral rights.

In 2013, the need for an improved access to published works by the physiclly disabled individuals received recognition in the Marrakesh Treaty To Facilitate Access To Published Works For Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired Or Otherwise Print Disabled. A public-private partnership by the WIPO is the Accessible Books Consortium that aim to represent people with disabilities. This has been one such notable contribution by the Treaty.

As we have been introduced to the international framework existing for the copyright regime in this article, it becomes notable to mention that all these international structures have been provided with a spine that initiate growth and development of the copyright fraternity. It is said that any statute, how well it is structure faces the test of implementation. For all the conventions and treaties mentioned abaove the same test applies. While there has been a path of succcess followed by these international statutes, a road full of unknown hurdles are left to be overcome.


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