AIRS Digital Library Copyright Information

Copyright Law and the Berne Convention

Copyright law has been standardized in most countries of the world.  All members of the World Trade Organization have to comply with the rules of the Berne Convention (160 countries have ratified), which means they're all using the same basic framework. Berne requires protection for a minimum of the life of the author plus 50 years, but some countries (such as the US) have increased this to 70 years. Berne also asserts that materials must be protected as soon as they are fixed, but some counties (again, such as the US) have optional formal registration that allows for certain additional awards in court.

One of the basic principles of the Berne Convention is that of “automatic protection”, which means that copyright protection exists automatically from the time a qualifying work is fixed in a tangible medium (such as paper, film or a silicon chip).  A “qualifying work” is a literary work, a musical composition, a film, a software program, a painting or any of many other expressions of creative ideas – but it is only the expression, and not the idea, that is protected by copyright law.  Neither publication, registration, nor other action is required to secure a copyright, although in some countries use of a copyright notice is recommended, and in a few countries (including the United States) registration of domestic works is required in order to sue for infringement

Most national copyright laws recognize two different types of rights within copyright: Moral rights and economic rights.

Moral rights refer to the idea that a copyrighted work is an expression of the personality and humanity of its author or creator. They include:

  •     The right to be identified as the author of a work,
  •     The right of integrity (that is, the right to forbid alteration, mutilation or distortion of the work),and
  •     The right of first divulgation (that is, making public) of the work.

Moral rights cannot always be transferred by the creator to a third party, and some of them do not expire in certain countries.

Countries in the Anglo-American tradition, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, tend to minimize the existence of moral rights in favor of an emphasis on economic rights in copyright.

Economic or exploitation rights recognize the right of the holder to use, to authorize use of, or to prohibit the use of, a work, and to set the conditions for its use. Different specific uses (or “acts of exploitation”) of a work can be treated separately, meaning that the rights-holder can deal with each right (including using, transferring, licensing or selling the right) on an individual type-of-use basis. Economic rights typically include:


  •     The right of reproduction (for instance, making copies by digital or analogue means),
  •     The right of distribution by way of tangible copies (for example, selling, renting or lending of copies),
  •     The right of communication to the public (including public performance, public display and dissemination over digital networks like the Internet), and
  •     The right of transformation (including the adaptation or translation of a text work)


Obtaining permission to use a copyright work:    
In the case where a copyright-sensitive use needs to be made (such as a reproduction for business use), permission can usually be obtained either directly from the rightsholder or from a third party organization that has been authorized by the rightsholder to grant the permission on his or her behalf.  In some countries, that permission is granted by law (a “legal license”) in exchange for a designated payment.
Organizations at the forefront of intellectual property and copyright from a global perspective:

    European Commission - Copyright       
    International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations       
    WIPO - World Intellectual Property Organization       

-from: RightsDirect website


Copyright Law in the United States of America

Copyright protection in the USA arises automatically once an original work of authorship is fixed in a tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed; e.g., written, filmed, recorded. It does not require that a copyright notice be placed on the work, that the work be published, or that the work be deposited or registered with the Copyright Office or any other body.

Copyright applies to Web sites, e-mail messages, Web-based music, etc. Simply because the Internet provides easy access to the information does not mean that the information is in the public domain or is available without limitations. Copyrighted works found on the Internet should be treated the same as copyrighted works found in other media. the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998 expanded protection to works on the Internet
Copyright protects the form of expression only and does not extend to the idea or concept underlying the work. There are differences between copyright and other forms of intellectual property protection such as patents and trademarks.
 Categories of copyrightable works include: literary works such as educational materials and computer programs; musical works, including any accompanying words; dramatic works, including any accompanying music; pictorial, graphic and sculptural works; motion pictures and other audiovisual works; sound recordings; and architectural works.
Facts cannot be copyrighted. However, the creative selection, coordination and arrangement of information and materials forming a database or compilation may be protected by copyright. Note, however, that the copyright protection only extends to the creative aspect, not to the facts contained in the database or compilation.
 Copyright gives the owner of the copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

  •     To reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords;
  •     To prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;
  •     To distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
  •     To perform the copyrighted work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
  •     To display the copyrighted work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work; and
  •     In the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

Under current Copyright Law, the copyright term for works created by individuals on or after January 1, 1978, is the life of the author plus 70 years. For "works made for hire," the copyright term is 95 years from the date of first publication or 120 years from the date of its creation, whichever is earliest.

Any and all of the copyright owner's exclusive rights may be transferred, but the transfer of exclusive rights is not valid unless that transfer is in writing and signed by the owner of the rights being transferred. (See 17 USC � 204.41) Transfer of a right on a nonexclusive basis does not require a written agreement

-from: CENDI Copyright Task Group, CENDI Secretariat Information International Associates, Inc., Oak Ridge, TN, October 2008    


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