The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works is a set of treaties between participating nations respecting comity with respect to copyright. The first treaty was accepted in 1886, and the most recent version was adopted in 1979. At present, almost all of the world's nations are signatories to the treaty. The last major holdout was the United States, which finally adopted the convention in 1988 and passed laws to bring it's own copyright law into compliance with it in 1989.

The major conditions of the treaty are:

  • A convention signatory must protect works published outside the country in another convention state to the same level as it protects works published inside the country.
  • The convention state must meet certain minimum protections for original works
  • Copyright must attach automatically to the work upon publication - there can be no registration requirement.
  • The minimum protection (except film and photos) must be at least fifty years from the death of the author, but longer terms are allowed.
  • A convention state must allow fair use of protected works.