What is International Copyright Protection?

There is no such thing as an ‘International Copyright Law’. Copyrights law are territorial and are enforced under separate National Copyright laws. However, to harmonize cross-border sharing and protection of content easier, several countries have ratified treaties to protect intellectual property rights across the globe. One such treaty is the Berne Convention.

Without the harmonious recognition of Copyright Laws across the globe, there was a serious challenge for multi-national organizations exchanging original content across borders.

This led to the enforcement of intellectual property treaties, copyright agreement, and conventions. These treaties are based on the subject matter of copyright law protection, which is ‘works of original creativity’ or ‘works of the mind’.

The principle followed by these treaties encouraged the distribution and dissemination of these works across national borders, putting in place certain principles of protection for the same.

How are Indian Copyrights Protected Internationally?

In India, copyrights are enforced and governed by the Copyright Act, 1957, which has only a national applicability. In order to ensure that Indian works are protected in other countries, India entered into several copyright conventions and treaties. These include:

  1. Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works
  2. WIPO Copyright Treaty
  3. Universal Copyright Convention
  4. Convention for the Protection of Producers of Phonograms against Unauthorized Duplication of their Phonograms
  5. Multilateral Convention for the Avoidance of Double Taxation of Copyright Royalties
  6. Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement.

Works of Indian Origin receive automatic protection in all contracting countries that have signed these copyright agreements.

Since copyright laws are territorial, to seek protection in non-contracting countries, the Indian works must meet the legal requirements of the relevant national laws to maintain its copyright in that country.

What are the Principles followed by Copyright Conventions?

While there are several copyright treaties, the Berne Convention is the most significant treaty that’s ratified by over 180 countries, forming the base for several other global treaties.

Established in 1886, the Berne Convention sets the minimum standards for protection. All signatory countries have to adopt these standards as a part of their national laws. Here are the broad principles followed by most treaties and conventions:

1. National Treatment

Works with origin in any of the signatory countries (Contracting States) is required to be given an equal amount of protection in all the other contracting states. In such a situation, works should be treated just as any of the national works would be treated under the contracting country’s national laws.

2. ‘Automatic’ Protection

Such national treatment of the works of a Contracting country in other contracting countries should not be conditional or depend on any specific formality. The protection for the works should be automatic. Therefore, the protection comes into force the minute the work is expressed in a tangible medium such as paper, film or computer chip.

3. ‘Independence’ of Protection

The copyright for a work in any of the contracting countries is not dependent on the existence (or non-existence) of the right in any other contracting countries (or in the country of origin).

More on: Procedure of Copyright Registration

How is ‘Foreign Works’ Treated in India?

In India, there are no such provisions that specifically defined ‘foreign works’ under the Indian Copyright Act, 1957. Section 2(l) gives the definition of works originated in India. So, for the purpose of enforcement, all permissible works that don’t fall under Section 2(l) are considered ‘foreign works’.

International Copyright Order, 1999

Since India is a signatory in several international copyright treaties, the International Copyright Order of 1999 was enacted to provide protection to foreign works and their authors/creators. The principle of National treatment, Automatic protection, and Independent protection are the foundations of the 1999 Order.

Treatment in India

Under the India law, the protection and rights given to foreign works will not extend beyond the scope of protection of the home country.

For instance, if a copyright for a work was registered in the USA, a subsequent registration in India after a decade will not result in the extension of the term of the copyright. 

Remedies Available

Through the Order of 1999, foreign works are extended protection under the Indian Copyright Act 1957. Therefore, both criminal and civil remedies are available for these works. The right holders have a dual legal mechanism to enforce their rights. These are remedies before the:

  • The Intellectual Property Appellate Board and
  • The Indian Courts.

In India, the foreign works originating in all the contracting countries (contracting to the copyright treaties and convention that India is a part of) are given protection.