WIPO Copyright Treaty

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WIPO Copyright Treaty
World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty
Member states, as of 26 September 2022[1]
  Ratified and in force
  Ratified as part of European Union
  Ratified, but not yet in force
  Signed, but not ratified
  Not signed and not ratified
Signed20 December 1996
LocationGeneva, Switzerland[2]
Effective6 March 2002[2]
Condition30 ratifications[2]
DepositaryDirector-General of the World Intellectual Property Organization[2]
LanguagesEnglish, Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish[2]
Full text
WIPO Copyright Treaty at Wikisource

The World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty (WIPO Copyright Treaty or WCT) is an international treaty on copyright law adopted by the member states of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 1996. It provides additional protections for copyright to respond to advances in information technology since the formation of previous copyright treaties before it.[4] As of August 2023, the treaty has 115 contracting parties.[5] The WCT and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, are together termed WIPO "internet treaties".[6]


During the earlier stages of negotiations, the WCT was seen as a protocol to the Berne Convention, constituting an update of that agreement since the 1971 Stockholm Conference.[7] However, as any amendment to the Berne Convention required unanimous consent of all parties, the WCT was conceptualized as an additional treaty which supplemented the Berne Convention.[8] The collapse of negotiations around the extension of the Berne Convention during the 1980s saw the shifting of the forum to the GATT, resulting in the TRIPS Agreement.[9][10] Thus, the nature of any copyright treaty by the World Intellectual Property Organization became considerably narrower, being limited to addressing the challenges posed by digital technologies.

Protection granted by the Treaty[edit]

The WCT emphasizes the incentive nature of copyright protection, claiming its importance to creative endeavours.[7] It ensures that computer programs are protected as literary works (Article 4), and that the arrangement and selection of material in databases is protected (Article 5). It provides authors of works with control over their rental and distribution in Articles 6 to 8, which they may not have under the Berne Convention alone. It also prohibits circumvention of technological measures for the protection of works (Article 11) and unauthorized modification of rights management information contained in works (Article 12).

The treaty has been criticised for being too broad (for example in its prohibition of circumvention of technical protection measures, even where such circumvention is used in the pursuit of legal and fair use rights) and for applying a "one size fits all" standard to all signatory countries, despite their widely differing stages of economic development and knowledge industry.


The WIPO Copyright Treaty is implemented in United States law by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). By Decision 2000/278/EC of 16 March 2000, the Council of the European Union approved the treaty on behalf of the European Community. European Union Directives which largely cover the subject matter of the treaty are: Directive 91/250/EC, creating copyright protection for software; Directive 96/9/EC on copyright protection for databases; and Directive 2001/29/EC, prohibiting devices for circumventing "technical protection measures", such as digital rights management (also known as DRM).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "WIPO Lex". wipolex.wipo.int.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Contracting Parties > WIPO Copyright Treaty- contracting parties". World Intellectual Property Organization. Archived from the original on 24 June 2006. Retrieved 12 February 2012.
  3. ^ "Contracting Parties > WIPO Copyright Treaty". World Intellectual Property Organization. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  4. ^ Julie S Sheinblatt, 'The WIPO Copyright Treaty' (1998) 13 (1) Berkeley Technology Law Journal 535 <https://dx.doi.org/https://doi.org/10.15779/Z383X1Q>
  5. ^ "Contracting Parties. WIPO Copyright Treaty". www.wipo.int. Retrieved 20 November 2023.
  6. ^ Ficsor, Mihály (1997). "Copyright for the Digital Era: the WIPO Internet Treaties". Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts. 21: 197–223.
  7. ^ a b Mort SA, 'The WTO, WIPO & the Internet: Confounding the Borders of Copyright and Neighboring Rights' (1997–98) 8 Fordham Intell Prop Media & Ent LJ 173.
  8. ^ 'The New WIPO Copyright and Phonograms Treaties: Steps Toward Harmonized Protection for the Digital Age | Publications and Presentations' (Arnold & Porter, 1 October 1996) https://www.arnoldporter.com/en/perspectives/publications/1996/10/the-new-wipo-copyright-and-phonograms-treaties-s__?keyword= Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  9. ^ Sapp HA, 'North American Anti-Circumvention: Implementation of the WIPO Internet Treaties in the United States, Mexico and Canada.' (2005) 10(1) Computer L Rev & Tech J 1, at 7
  10. ^ Peter Drahos, John Braithwaite, Information Feudalism: Who owns the knowledge economy 112 (Earthscan Publications: 2002)

External links and references[edit]