International copyright protection

International copyright protection

Although details of national laws may differ, the basic rights are the same in most countries due to international conventions and agreements (principally the Berne Convention) that provide a common framework that national legislation must follow to ensure countries respect the rights of foreign authors.

This means that copyright automatically protects your work at a worldwide level.

Principal conventions and agreements

1. The Berne Convention

countries covered
under Berne Convention

The Berne Convention is the main international convention governing copyright. It lays down the common framework: rights of the author, minimum guaranteed copyright duration, actions requiring permission, etc. that all contracting states must incorporate in their national laws and extend to foreign artists and authors.

As of June 2018 there are 176 countries that are signatories of the Berne Convention (source: World Intellectual Property Organization).

For more information, please see our main article on the Berne Convention.


countries are
WTO members

Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (or TRIPS for short) is an agreement between all the member nations of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

From a copyright perspective much of the provisions are the same as the Berne Convention. But a fuller description of the agreement can be found at

From July 2016, the WTO had 164 members and 23 observers (source:

Other treaties and agreements

There are additional treaties covering some of the remaining countries, these are:

  • The WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT)  

    a special agreement under the Berne Convention which deals with the protection of works and the rights of their authors in the digital environment.

  • Universal Copyright Convention (UCC)  

    Now of little significance as most members are also members of TRIPS. For more information, please see our main article on the Universal Copyright Convention (UCC).

In addition to the above treaties, countries may have unilateral deals with other countries directly.

Non-signatory countries

There are only a handful of countries that are not signatories of any of the international copyright agreements listed above, these are:

Further resources

An up to date list of signatory countries to the various international copyright agreements is maintained at

Using evidence submitted to our service.

In a ownership dispute you can call on us to produce a copy of work you have lodged with us as independent evidence of the exact content of your work as it existed at the point of registration (our 'duplicate work' service). This evidence can then be presented to the judge, tribunal, etc. hearing the case to help establish your prior claim on the work.

It should make little difference where a case is brought, or the evidence is used; evidence is still evidence.

To that end, we place no restriction on how or where you use the evidence we provide.

For most of our clients a single registration of their work with us is all they require.

Additional notes for US Citizens

The USA is a bit out of step in its domestic policy, so there are a few considerations you should read if you are a US Citizen

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International Copyright Law article from Copyright Witness.