The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works is an international set of laws that protects copyrighted works from infringement across the member countries. The convention was created in Berne, Switzerland in 1886 with 10 European member countries. The United States became a party to the Berne Convention in 1989. Today, the Berne Convention has over 180 member countries and city-states. The Berne Convention requires that all members have certain levels of copyright protection, and they must protect the works made by citizens of other members. Copyrighted works are considered protected as soon as the work is manifested in a physical form and does not require registration. Individual members, like the United States, may require registration for their own citizen’s works for protection, but generally, members must not require registration of works from foreign citizens. The Berne Convention establishes many other necessary rules for the cooperation of copyright laws across borders. For example, members are required to give authors control over reproduction of the work and protect copyrighted works for a specific number of years depending on the type of work. To access the modern text of the Berne Convention, click here.
[Last updated in November of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]