Comparison of U.S. and Canada Copyright Law

Cowboy in Snow Country - Copyright Carolyn E. Wright

The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works is an international agreement (first signed in 1886 and subsequently amended many times) designed to standardize copyright protection among member countries. The United States became a party to the Berne Convention in 1989.

As explained in WIPO’s summary, Berne Convention contracting members agree to three basic principles:

(a) Works originating in one of the contracting States (that is, works the author of which is a national of such a State or works which were first published in such a State) must be given the same protection in each of the other contracting States as the latter grants to the works of its own nationals (principle of “national treatment”).

(b) Such protection must not be conditional upon compliance with any formality (principle of “automatic” protection).

(c) Such protection is independent of the existence of protection in the country of origin of the work (principle of the “independence” of protection). If, however, a contracting State provides for a longer term than the minimum prescribed by the Convention and the work ceases to be protected in the country of origin, protection may be denied once protection in the country of origin ceases.

Despite the similarities, there are distinctions between copyright law in the United States and other countries. To help identify these differences with the law in Canada, Dan Pollack, an intellectual property lawyer in Toronto, and the Photo Attorney have prepared the chart below:

Comparison of US and Canada Law - Copyright Carolyn E. Wright

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