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Berne Convention

This convention for the protection of Literary and Artistic works was first adopted in 1886 and has undergone numerous changes since then. As Woodmansee and Jaszi note, "In the domain of international law the most unusual feature of Berne (and one that it retains today in its sixth iteration, the Paris Act of 1971) is the first Article, which provides that signatory countries 'constitute a Union for the protection of the rights of authors in their literary and artistic work." This legal device makes the Berne Convention an agreement with a cause, so to speak -- the cause of promoting and extending authors' rights, however these may be secured in the national laws of countries around the world." ("The Ethical Reaches of Authorship," see also footnote 39) The most recent amendments formally incorporated into the convention took place in 1979 and preserve the intention of the treaty's creators. The most recent edition of the Berne Convention is accessible online at this site: http://www.wipo.int/clea/docs/en/wo/wo001en.htm.

Most relevant to our concerns is Article 15(4)(a), http://www.wipo.int/clea/docs/en/wo/wo001en.htm#P190_37184, which deals with indigenous or communal authors' rights. WIPO herein gives each nation permission to appoint someone to represent the indigenous author and "to protect and enforce his rights in the countries" that honor the Berne convention (Berne). According to Article 15(4)(a):

[i]n the case of unpublished works where the identity of the author is unknown, but where there is every ground to presume that he is a national of a country of the Union, it shall be a matter for legislation in that country to designate the competent authority which shall represent the author and shall be entitled to protect and enforce his rights in the countries of the Union
(emphasis added).

As such, the provision attempts to find an author on whom to confer rights when no individual author or creator is readily apparent. Accordingly, the provision appears pragmatically helpful, but the author function remains at the center of the legislation.

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This page last updated on: Friday, 20-Oct-2006 13:15:16 EDT