The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, usually known as the Berne Convention, is an international agreement governing copyright, which was first accepted in Berne, Switzerland, in 1886. At present there are 177 signatory countries to the Berne Convention.
The core of the Berne Convention is its provision that each of the contracting countries shall provide automatic protection for works first published in other countries of the Berne union and for unpublished works whose authors are citizens of or resident in such other countries. Each country of the union must guarantee to authors who are nationals of other member countries the rights that its own laws grant to its nationals.
In the Rome revision the term of copyright for most types of works became the life of the author plus 50 years, but it was recognized that some countries might have a shorter term.
The Berne Convention sets out some basic principles for protection of copyright:
o member countries must give works originating in another contracting country the same protection under the convention as the works of the member country's own nationals;
o protection is automatic and member countries must not condition protection on compliance with any formalities; and
o protection does not depend on the existence of protection in the work's country of origin, with limited exceptions.
o the agreement also required member states to provide strong minimum standards for copyright law.
However, when the United States joined the Convention on 1 March 1989, it continued to make statutory damages and attorney's fees only available for registered works.