Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date

2000

Center/Program

Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts

Abstract

In recent years, the number and content of substantive norms that international copyright treaties impose on member states have increased considerably. It is therefore appropriate to consider the extent to which those instruments have in effect created an international (or at least multinational) copyright code, as well as to inquire what role national copyright laws do and should have in an era not only of international copyright norms, but of international dissemination of copyrighted works. This Article first considers the displacement of national norms through the evolution of a de facto international copyright code, elaborated in multilateral instruments such as the Berne Convention, the TRIPs Accord, and the pending WIPO Copyright Treaty, as well as by harmonization measures within the European Union. The second part of this Article addresses the place that remains for national copyright norms, first through gaps left in the WIPO, WTO and EU multilateral instruments, and second, through choice of law. In the latter instance, a national norm will govern a multinational copyright contract or dispute, but other national copyright norms may be eluded. Finally, this Article considers what role should remain for national copyright laws. National copyright laws are a component of local cultural and information policies. As such, they express each sovereign nation's twin aspirations for its citizensexposure to works of authorship, and participation in their country's cultural patrimony. Perhaps that simply means that each country's local policies should prevail within its borders, whatever the national origin of the work locally received. On the other hand, the pervasive international dissemination of works of authorship also calls into question the extent to which authors and their works should be subject to different national standards. The Article concludes that national laws allocating copyright ownership form the strongest candidates for preservation; national exceptions to copyright present a more difficult, but potentially persuasive, case for persistence of national norms as well.

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