Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Berne Convention Definition:

An international copyright treaty.

(c) symbolAn international copyright treaty called the Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works signed at Berne, Switzerland in 1886 (amended several times and as late as 1971) and to which now subscribe 77 nations including all major trading countries including China, with the notable exception of Russia.

The treaty is based on the principle of national treatment.

An associated legal term is Berne Convention country which refers to a signatory to the Convention.

For example, the 2012 Copyright Act of Canada, at §2:

"Berne Convention country" means a country that is a party to the Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works concluded at Berne on September 9, 1886, or any one of its revisions, including the Paris Act of 1971."

This legal term is treated in detail at Berne Convention on International Copyright.

University of California law professor Melville Nimmer gave this summary of the Berne Convention in his 1966 article in the Stanford Law Review:

"The Berne Convention is a multilateral treaty whereby certain minimum standards for the protection of literary and artistic works are rendered mandatory for all member states. It represents one of the earliest and in some ways most successful ventures into world law.

"The permanent secretariat of the Berne Union, known as the United International Bureaux for the Protection of Intellectual Property (BIRPI),was organized in 1893, long before the present era of international organizations. Since that time it has effectively administered both the Berne Copyright Convention and the Paris Convention, which deals with patents and other industrial property.

"The original version of the Berne Convention was signed by ten countries at a conference in Berne, Switzerland, on September 6, 1886. Since that time most of the significant nations of the world have acceded to the Convention, either in its original form or with respect to one of the versions of the Convention adopted at subsequent international conferences.

"Diplomatic conferences for revision of the Berne Convention (occur) at approximately twenty-year intervals."


  • Copyright Act, RSC 1985, c C-42
  • Nimmer, Melville, Implications of the Prospective Revisions of the Berne Convention and the United States Copyright Law, 19 Stan. L. Rev. 499 (1966-1967)

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