Intellectual Property Attorney

You May Already Have International Copyright Protection In Your Artwork — Offer Not Valid In Turkmenistan

It may not be necessary to secure separate copyright protection in countries outside the United States for artwork that is created by a United States national/resident or first published in the United States.

Pursuant to an international treaty called the Berne Convention, artwork created by a national or resident of the U.S. (or any country that is a member of the Berne Convention, commonly called a “member state”) or first published in the U.S. (or any member state) is afforded copyright protection in other member states. More specifically, every member state must recognize the copyright of works of authors from other member states in the same way that the member state recognizes the copyright of its own nationals.

Member states must also provide certain minimum standards of copyright protection. For example, copyright protection for a work must arise automatically upon its creation, and formal registration requirements are prohibited. The term of protection for artwork must be at least 50 years after the death of the author.

Countries that provide these Berne Convention protections (either by virtue of the fact that they are Berne Convention member states or the fact that they are members of the World Trade Organization) include almost every single country recognized by the United Nations. Notable exceptions are Afghanistan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, and Turkmenistan, with which the United States has no copyright relations at all. A complete list of Berne Convention member states can be found here.

Other international treaties afford protection for other types of copyrightable works. For example, sound recordings may be protected pursuant to the World Intellectual Property Performances and Phonograms Treaty, among others. Not all countries are parties to all treaties. Protection under any given treaty will depend on many factors, including the type of work and the country where protection is sought.

The protection of copyrightable works afforded by the Berne Convention and other international treaties differs sharply from those afforded trademarks. Unlike copyrights, federal trademark rights end at the United States’ borders. To acquire trademark rights outside of the United States, one generally must register the trademark in each country where protection is sought. In contrast, one need not do anything to enjoy the benefits afforded by the Berne Convention—just don’t expect protection in Turkmenistan.

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