International Copyright & Libraries

An Introduction to International Copyright Issues
Recently, numerous international trade agreements and conventions have included provisions on copyright policies. These provisions concern the library community because many of them impose onto signatory nations (including the U.S.) obligations to pass copyright laws that ensure technological protection for copyrighted works. In many instances, these provisions appear to be more restrictive than existing U.S. copyright law as well as current international standards.

Bi-Lateral Free Trade Agreements
Bi-lateral free trade agreements form part of the web of international agreements that the U.S. makes with other nations in matters that relate to common trade or service issues. These treaties are part of U.S. policy to foster meaningful trade relationships throughout the world. In addition to the Free Trade Area of the Americas Agreement (FTAA), which is currently being negotiated, there are other FTAs in various stages of negotiation or conclusion by the U.S. Trade Representative.

The U.S - Chile and U.S.- Singapore Free Trade Agreements
In September 2003 President Bush signed free trade agreements with Chile and Singapore, respectively. These treaties are part of U.S. policy to foster meaningful trade relationships throughout the world. The bilateral treaties cover a broad scope of subjects including intellectual property rights, non-immigrant professionals, and domain names on the Internet.

Free Trade Area of the Americas
The U.S., Canada and Mexico are signatories of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Under NAFTA the U.S. is obligated to expand the agreement to the entire Western Hemisphere. In the FTAA negotiations, 34 nations of North, South and Central America are negotiating a comprehensive regional trade agreement for the Americas similar to NAFTA. The FTAA includes a chapter on intellectual property rights and on trade in services. The negotiating governments released a first consolidated draft of the FTAA in July 2001 and then in November 2002. ALA has submitted two sets of comments regarding the chapter on intellectual property rights.

The Hague Convention and Copyright
The Hague Conference on Private International Law is an intergovernmental organization, with 64 Member countries, which was established over a hundred years ago to negotiate and draft multilateral treaties or Conventions in the different fields of private international law.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization International Convention on Cultural Diversity
Libraries as well as other parts of the U.S. cultural community should stand to benefit from an international treaty that is intended to promote the importance of culture and art in realizing “human rights and fundamental freedoms” and to enhance public access to diverse cultural expressions.

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
WIPO implements international copyright laws that implicate member nations such as the U.S. For example, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (The Berne Convention) established international standards for copyright protection that relates to libraries. WIPO members are currently debating the need for extending further copyright protection to expressions of folklore.

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Proposed Treaty on the Protection of Broadcast Organizations
For several years, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has been considering a treaty that would provide copyright-like rights (related rights) to broadcast organizations. Such a treaty already exists – the 1961 Rome Convention – which the U.S. never joined.