The Berne Convention: Meaning and Application

Held in 1886 in the Switzerland’s city of Bern, the Berne Convention is an international treaty that was established to safeguard the rights of authors and artists who contributed to the creation of works such as books, songs, and paintings. In some circles, it is also referred to as the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. The international community drafted and symphonically adopted a multi-party contract encompassing agreements for a uniform, crossing border system. However, after adoption of this agreement, its rules have been amended and updated several times.

Parties of the Berne Convention

At present, there are 181 parties of the Berne Convention; however, in the beginning, the Convention treaty was signed by only France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, the United Kingdom, Liberia, Spain, Tunisia, and Haiti on 9 September 1886 and they ratified it on 5 September 1887.

In the beginning, the United States of America refused to be a part of the convention, as its provisions were not in the harmony with the United States’ copyright law. But after hundred years, the United States assented to the convention on 16 November 1988, and the convention came into force on 1 March 1989.

Objectives of Berne Convention

The primary objective of the Berne Convention is to guarantee that the creators of literary and artistic works will be able to receive appropriate protection for their works and will also be able to make a profit from their efforts. The Convention grants the creators of these works a number of rights, one of which is the authority to exercise some degree of control over the reproduction, distribution, and public performance of their works. It also protects these rights in other countries, making it possible for authors to profit from their creations even when those creations are used in other nations.

The United Nations' World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is in charge of the administration of the Berne Convention on the Law of Intellectual Property. It is one of the international treaties that has been adopted in the most countries all over the world, making it one of the most important in the field of intellectual property. Over the course of its history, the Convention has undergone a number of iterations of revision in order to take into account developments in technology as well as the requirements of creators. It continues to be an important tool for protecting the rights of writers and artists all over the world whose works are published.

A Brief Overview of the History of the Berne Convention

At a conference held in Berne, Switzerland, in 1886, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works was officially approved for the first time. The conference was organised by the Federal Government of Switzerland, and it was attended by representatives from a large number of European countries in addition to those from the United States.

Because there were no international standards or procedures in place at the time, it was very difficult for creators to protect their rights in other countries during that time period. The Berne Convention attempted to find a solution to this problem by drafting a number of guidelines designed to safeguard the intellectual property rights and copyrights of content developers.

The principle of national treatment is one of the fundamental principles that underpin the Berne Convention. It mandates that authors and artists of works of literature and art should be afforded the same degree of legal protection in other countries as they are in the country in which they reside. This means that if a piece of work is copyright protected in one country, it must also be protected in all other countries that have ratified the Convention on the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works in the United States.

Since it was initially implemented, the Berne Convention has undergone a number of iterations of revision, with the most recent one taking place in the year 1979. These alterations were made to take into account changes in creator demands as well as advancements in technology. The scope of the Convention was expanded so that it now includes new categories of works as well as alternative forms of protection.

Dates and Events of Berne Convention

In later years, some amendments have been done to improve the effectiveness of the convention as:


  • Berne convention

  • Protection of artistic and literary work


  • Alterations were made

  • To cope up with the changes in creator demands as well as advancements in technology

How did the Berne Convention affect the Copyright?

The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (also known as the Berne Convention) has had a significant impact on the law governing copyright and the protection of intellectual property rights. The Convention has had a significant impact on copyright in a number of significant ways. One of these ways is by establishing a minimum term of protection for works of literature and art. In accordance with the Convention, the minimum term of protection for these works is at least fifty years after the author has passed away. This indicates that after an artist's death, their works continue to be protected by copyright for a predetermined amount of time, during which time they cannot be reproduced or distributed without the permission of the person who holds the copyright.

The Berne Convention has also attempted, through the establishment of the principle of automatic protection, to protect the originality of a creator's work. According to this principle, the legal protection afforded to literary and artistic works is automatic and does not call for their registration or any other kinds of formalities. This signifies that as soon as a work is created, it is protected by copyright, and the creator of the work has certain rights regarding the use of their work.

Significance of Berne Convention

The protection of works and the rights of their authors is the topic of discussion in the Berne Convention. It is founded on three fundamental principles and has a set of rules that determine the minimum protection that is to be offered. Additionally, it contains exceptional provisions that are available to developing countries that desire to make use of them.

The following are the Three Foundational Tenets

  • Works originating in one of the Contracting States (that is, works the author of which is a national of such a State or works 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"). This means that works in which the author is a national of such a State or works in which the first publication took place in such a State.

  • Protection shall not be conditional upon compliance with any formality (automatic protection concept).

  • Protection is not contingent on there being a system of protection in place in the nation where the work was created (principle of "independence" of protection).

If, on the other hand, a Contracting State provides for a longer duration of protection than the minimum term provided 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 stops.

Exceptions and Limitations

The Berne Convention that defines and grants an exclusive right to writers and artists against their unique and creative works, also describes certain exceptions and limitations. For example, Article 10(2) of the convention excuses "the use of such protected work for the teaching purpose". However, the exception is limited to a use for illustration of the subject matter taught and it must be related to teaching purpose only and strictly not for the commercial purpose.


The Berne Convention mandates that all members must have specific levels of copyright protection, and that those countries must also protect the works that were created by people of other member states. Works that have been granted copyright are regarded as being protected as soon as the work is brought into existence in a physical form, and registration of the work is not required. Individual members, such as the United States, have the right to demand that their own citizens' works be registered in order to receive legal protection, but in general, members are not permitted to demand registration of works produced by people of other countries.

The Berne Convention sets a large number of additional provisions that are necessary for the cooperation of copyright laws across international borders. For instance, members are expected to provide writers control over reproduction of the work and to safeguard copyrighted works for a set number of years depending on the type of work.


Q1. What are the basic principles of Berne Convention?

Ans. Following are the major principles of Berne Convention:

  • National treatment: As per the agreement, the signatory States agree to give foreign works the same protection as the works originating in their own country.

  • Automatic protection: The protection set out in the signatory states’ legislation does not require any formalities or notifications.

Q2. Why did US not join Berne Convention?

Ans. The reason that the U.S. refused to join the Berne Convention previously was –the United State had to change its copyright laws and the required registration and mandatory notice of copyright.

Q3. What countries are not in the Berne Convention?

Ans. There are just four least developed countries that are not members of WIPO or the Berne Convention. These are the Solomon Islands, South Sudan, Timor-Leste and Tuvalu. These four countries have a population of 12 million.

Q4. Is Russia in Berne Convention?

Ans. Russia Withdraws Reservations to Berne Convention Provisions in 2013.

Q5. How many countries were in the Berne Convention in 1886?

Ans. Berne Convention, was an international assembly held in 1886 in the Swiss city of Bern by ten European countries with the goal to agree on a set of legal principles for the protection of original work.

Q6. Is the Berne Convention binding?

Ans. The Berne Convention, like most treaties, is binding on the states that have ratified it or acceded to it.

Updated on: 05-May-2023

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