This section examines important international legal instruments applicable to the area of copyright and related rights, and provides a brief overview of their contribution to the development of international intellectual property law. In addition to examining existing legal instruments, this section also presents a perspective on ongoing negotiations at the WIPO.

Berne Convention4

Formally referred to as the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, The Berne Convention is an international agreement governing term of copyright, and was first accepted in Berne, Switzerland, in 1886. This requires signatories to not only recognize the copyright of works of authors of one’s own country, but of all other signatory countries as well, and also required member states to provide strong minimum standards for copyright law. Under the Berne Convention, copyright must be automatic and prohibits the requiring of formal registration. 

WIPO Internet Treaties5

With the technological progress brought on by the last several decades, there was a need to address new questions concerning copyright as new means of worldwide communication allowed for new ways of spreading creations. As a result, WIPO set the standards for copyright protection in cyberspace through the WIPO Copyright Treaty6 (WCT) and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty7 (WPPT), known together as the “Internet Treaties.” These treaties aimed at preventing unauthorized access to and use of creative works on the Internet and other digital networks. The WCT looks at protection for authors of literary and artistic works, such as writings and computer programs, musical works, and works of fine art and photographs, while the WPPT outlines protection for authors rights of performers and producers of phonograms.

Marrakesh Treaty8

The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled specifically defines its beneficiaries and aims to facilitate access to works in any accessible format for these beneficiaries, the blind or visually impaired, by removing barriers to access, recognising the right to read, and establishing equal opportunities and rights for the blind, visually impaired and otherwise print disabled persons who are marginalised due to lack of access to published works. It is expected to alleviate the “book famine” experienced by many of the 300 million people suffering from such disability, WHO-estimated in the world. This book famine is partly due to access barriers in copyright law, which the treaty helps to remove. Within India alone, there are an estimated more than 63 million visually impaired people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), of whom 8 million are blind. Countries that ratify the treaty are required to have an exception to domestic copyright law, which means that visually impaired and print disabled people and their organisations are allowed by law to make accessible format books without the need to ask permission first from the author or publisher who holds the copyright.

Beijing Treaty9

The early 20th century brought the development of an industry around silent films, and shortly after talking pictures. For the first time, performers – such as actors and singers – were being recorded, with their performances reproduced and distributed to vast audiences. While the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) modernized international standards for sound performances, audio-visual performers and their performances continued to be largely unprotected with only gave limited rights. On June 26, 2012, the WIPO Beijing Treaty on Audio-visual Performances (BTAP) was finalized in its final round of negotiations while at the diplomatic conference in Beijing to do so—putting an end to over 12 years of negotiations. For the first time, the treaty brings audio-visual performers into the sight of the international copyright framework. The BTAP seeks to strengthen the economic rights of film actors and other performers and to potentially provide extra income from their work, i.e. by enabling performers to share proceeds with producers for revenues generated internationally by audio-visual productions. By providing a clearer international legal framework for their protection, the new treaty aims to strengthen the position of performers in the audio-visual industry, and also to protect the rights of these performers against unauthorized use of their performances in audio-visual media, such as television, film and video.

Broadcast Treaty10

Officially known as the Treaty on the Protection of Broadcasting Organizations, the WIPO Broadcasting Treaty is an ongoing proposal to grant copyright-like protection to broadcasters in their signals, and to give broadcasters some control over the content of their broadcasts. In addition to the copyrights held by the creators of the works, in order to prevent signal piracy. This treaty has received much opposition from non-governmental organizations for acting as an additional roadblock to accessing content broadcasted in the send that a broadcaster may receive protection for the content of their broadcasts when they have no copyright in what they show. This treaty is also said to threaten the nature of the internet as a communication medium by giving rights to the middleman for feeding any “sounds and images” through a web server as opposed to the creator having the rights over their own works. This treaty is said to be a means of preventing “signal piracy,” but is argued to go well beyond the scope of signals to govern and control the content of the broadcasts themselves.

Limitations and Exceptions for Libraries11

The Treaty on the Limitations and Exceptions for Libraries and Archives is a proposed treaty to guide the WIPO’s Member States in updating the limitations and exceptions for libraries worldwide—the primary institutions for providing information as a public good. This treaty aims to address the need for libraries to have international copyright norms, along with limitations and exceptions (or legal flexibilities) in order to ensure a balance between users and creators of protected works. By copyright exceptions alone, libraries are able to preserve and make available works. These same exceptions, by which libraries are legally governed, had been established in the print era and have not been updated to meet the needs of the digital age. As users have an increased access to books online and have moved from photocopying chapters to downloading them, restrictive copyright laws continue to obstruct access and reproduction of material for the purpose of knowledge sharing. Such an international instrument to standardise these exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives is argued to be critical especially from the perspective of developing and least developed countries, to ensure development of an international copyright system that balances the rights of the users and rights holders.

Last modified: Monday, 19 April 2021, 12:17 PM