All rights reserved
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"All rights reserved" is a phrase that originated in copyright law as part of the formal requirements for copyright notice. It indicates that the copyright holder reserves, or holds for their own use, all the rights provided by copyright law, such as distribution, performance, and creation of derivative works; that is, they have not waived any such right. Copyright law in most countries no longer requires such notices, but the phrase persists. The original understanding of the phrase as relating specifically to copyright may have been supplanted by common usage of the phrase to refer to any legal right, although it is probably understood to refer at least to copyright.
In the past, the phrase was required as a result of the Buenos Aires Convention of 1910 which mandated that some statement of reservation of rights be made in order to secure protection in signatory countries of the convention. It was required to add the phrase as a written notice that all rights granted under existing copyright law (such as the right to publish a work within a specific area) were retained by the copyright holder and that legal action might be taken against infringement.
This was essentially the only way to get copyright protection in all of the countries that were signatories to the convention up until the 1950s because there was no other copyright treaty available that preserved the requirement to include some form of copyright notice. This phrase became much less important when the Universal Copyright Convention (UCC) was created in the early 1950s, and provided for copyright protection by use of the special c-in-a-circle notice, but not all of the members of the Buenos Aires Convention became members of the UCC so it was still necessary even after that treaty was established.
The United States could not, at the time the Buenos Aires Convention was created, become a member of the Berne Convention, which was established in 1888, because the Berne Convention did not require any form of copyright notice, and the United States was unwilling to drop a requirement that copyrighted works be published with notice. The United States would become a member of Berne on April 1, 1988, but some countries that were members of the Buenos Aires Convention were not, and the notice was still slightly relevant even after the US became a member of Berne.
The requirement to add this notice became obsolete and essentially deprecated on August 23, 2000 when Nicaragua became the final member of the Buenos Aires Convention to also become a signatory to the Berne Convention. As of that date, every country that was a member of the Buenos Aires Convention (which is the only copyright treaty requiring this notice to be used) was also a member of Berne, which requires protection be granted without any formality of notice of copyright.
Since copyright law is neither straightforward nor widely understood in its details, nor is the Buenos Aires Convention's previous requirement and current deprecation of the phrase common lay knowledge, the phrase continues to hold popular currency and serve as a handy convention widely used by artists, writers, and content creators to prevent ambiguity and clearly spell out the warning that their content cannot be copied freely.
- Creative Commons, which uses Some rights reserved
- No rights reserved
- Copyright formalities
- Copyright notice