Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988

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The Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988 is a copyright act that came into force in the United States on March 1, 1989, making it a party to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.


The United States refused initially (that is, for 102 years from 1886 to 1988) to join the Berne Convention. This would have required major changes in its copyright law, particularly:

(A) moral rights,
(B) an area called copyright formalities, including registration, deposit and mandatory copyright notice.

At the same time, US copyright experts seem to agree that the country's approach to international copyright relations prior to accepting the Berne treaty was badly flawed. Barbara Ringer, who served for years as the leading US copyright official, said, "Until [about 1955 the US]. . . role in international copyright was marked by short-sightedness, political isolationism, and narrow economic self-interest."[1]

The Pirate Publisher—An International Burlesque that has the Longest Run on Record, from Puck, 1886, satirizes the ability of publishers to take works from one country and publish them in another without paying the original authors.

H. Sandison writes: "The roots of American isolationism [are from the 1790 Copyright Act which protected books] only if their authors were citizens or residents of the United States."[2] Ringer observed that this meant US publishers could pirate the works of English authors like Charles Dickens and publish them cheaper in the new nation than U.S. authors could be published.[3] This hurt the market for US-created books for 100 years and was only partly remedied in 1891, when the US passed a limited international copyright law.[4] "Of course, the US was not alone in denying protection to nonresident foreigners." Yet it is safe to say that the US, by waiting until 1988 to join the Berne Convention, was one of the last industrial nations to join in the cooperative effort.

"In ratifying the Berne Convention, Congress determined to take a minimalist approach to compliance."[5] (emphasis original) In both realms of moral rights and formalities (registration, notice, deposit), US law in the Implementation Act was limited. "The major concession was that the United States finally, reluctantly, did away with copyright formalities."[6] That is to say, the US adoption of moral rights was very limited. And some formalities were kept, specifically "deposit" of a copy of the work with the Library of Congress, and some features of registration.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Barbara Ringer, The Role of the United States in International Copyright -- Past, Present, and Future, 56 Georgetown Law Journal, 1050, 1051 (1968).
  2. ^ H. or R. Sandison, The Berne Convention and the Universal Copyright Convention: The American Experience, 11 Colum.-V.LA. J. L. & Arts, 89, 90-95 (1986).
  3. ^ Barbara Ringer, 200 Years of American Copyright Law in the ABA's "200 Years of American Copyright Law," in Am. Bar Assn, "Two Hundred Years of English and American Patent, Trademark and Copyright Law," 117-129 (1977.)
  4. ^ Robert Gorman & Jane Ginsburg, Copyright: Cases and Materials, 843-851, 1999, Lexis Law, Charlottesville, Va.
  5. ^ a b Margreth Brewer, Intellectual Property Emanuel Law Outline, Aspen Publishers, NY, 2008, p. 196
  6. ^ Edward Samuels, The Illustrated Story of Copyright, Thomas Dunne Publ., NY, 2000, pp. 232-242
  • Jane Ginsburg and Robert Kernochan, "One Hundred and Two Years Later: the US joins the Berne Convention," 13 Col. VLA J. Law and the Arts (1988)
  • Koenigsberg, I. Fred. 1991. "United States copyright after Berne - the most significant catalyst in 100 years." LOGOS: The Journal Of The World Book Community 2, no. 2: 68-72.

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