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Scholarly Communication Services - International Copyright: Essentials

International Copyright

There is no unified international copyright law followed by all nations, and copyright and its protections are treated differently among various countries.  However, international treaties have harmonized copyright so that some copyright principles have baseline characteristics among the countries that signed a treaty.  For example, the Berne Convention established that copyright protections can last for the lifetime of its creator plus 50 years as a baseline for its participating countries (Smith, Gilliland, and Mackay, 2012).

International copyright and treaties related to it are administered by Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).  See the links below for additional information about international copyright, and which agreements have been signed by the U.S.

International Copyright & Higher Education.  Collaborations between institutions are common in higher education, including those between other countries.  Copyright is territorial; this means copyright protections for a work depend on where it was created or published.  This also means a work would not necessarily have identical copyright protections in other countries.  Instead, a work would be subject to the copyright laws of where it is being read, used, or otherwise accessed. 

Creators and scholars are also subject to copyright laws of whatever country they work regardless of their nationality when they create works abroad.  For instance, if an FAU student who is a South Korean citizen publishes an article while here, the copyright protection of her work would fall under U.S. law.  Conversely, if an FAU professor is taking a sabbatical in Great Britain, any work he publishes or creates while he's there would be subject to its copyright laws.  

Legal experts recommend that authors and creators of copyrighted works be aware of copyright or other relevant intellectual property laws of the U.S. or nations where they work, and to understand any contractual relationships they may have with collaborators based outside the U.S. (Denniston, 2012).

Disclaimer: The FAU Libraries and its faculty, staff, and administration are not attorneys and cannot interpret the law.  This information is provided for educational purposes only and does not substitute for advice from legal counsel.

Sources: Denniston, M.S. (2012, March 28). Intellectual copyright protection: How does it work? Bradley [Web page].,which%20the%20author%20seeks%20protection.

Smith, K., Macklin, L.A., & Gilliland, A. (2012). Copyright for educators and librarians [Online course]. Coursera.

Related LibGuides

International Copyright Essentials

The U.S. participates in the following treaties:

International Copyright Multimedia

Copyright Clearance Center (2016). Does global copyright law exisit? [YouTube Video].

Copyright Clearance Center (2015). Copyright across borders. [YouTube Video].