Session II: The Impact of International Copyright Treaties and Trade Agreements on the Development of Domestic Norms (Karyn Temple Claggett)

Claggett, Karyn Temple

I want to take a step back and go back almost 100 years to review the background, history, and context of how those particular treaties and trade agreements developed. Since adoption of the first federal U.S. domestic copyright law in 1790, the United States has had a very interesting and somewhat complicated history with treaty and trade development in the copyright space. Initially, the United States viewed international harmonization suspiciously. Thus, while the United States’ counterparts in Europe and elsewhere eagerly worked toward the development of international norms at the end of the nineteenth century, the United States arrived extremely late to the party. European countries signed the first multilateral copyright treaty, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, back in 1886 with nearly a dozen of the world’s most prolific copyright producing countries on board, including Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Berne set critical minimum standards for the international protection of copyrighted works through requirements such as national treatment and greatly influenced the development of copyright laws in Berne Union countries. The United States attended the 1885 Berne Convention diplomatic conference, but took more than a century to fully implement it. In fact, at the time of the Berne Convention’s adoption in 1886, the United States representative to the convention cautioned that “[t]he United States “cannot afford to stand before the world as the only important and deeply concerned power persistently refusing to do common justice to foreign authors . . . .”


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November 3, 2017


These remarks are a transcript of a talk that was given on October 14, 2016, at the Kernochan Center Annual Symposium at Columbia Law School.