In the U.S., copyright protection derives from the U.S. Constitution, which requires that original works of authorship be protected by copyright. The current (and exclusive) source of this protection is the federal Copyright Act of 1976, as amended. There are no state copyright laws.
Copyright protection rules are fairly similar worldwide, due to several international copyright treaties, the most important of which is the Berne Convention. Under this treaty, all member countries (in excess of 100 countries, including virtually all industrialized countries) must afford copyright protection to authors who are nationals of any member country. This protection must last for at least the life of the author plus 50 years, and must be automatic without the need for the author to take any legal steps to preserve the copyright.
In addition to the Berne Convention, the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) treaty contains a number of provisions that affect copyright protection in signatory countries. Together, the Berne Copyright Convention and the GATT treaty allow U.S. authors to enforce their copyrights in most industrialized nations, and allow the nationals of those nations to enforce their copyrights in the U.S.
Related terms: all rights reserved; Berne Convention; Buenos Aires Convention, defined; common law copyright laws; Copyright Act of 1909; Copyright Act of 1976; freedom of speech and copyrights or trademarks; GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade); international copyright protection; international rules on notice of copyright; manufacturing clause; national treatment; restored copyright under GATT; Semiconductor Chip Protection Act of 1984; simultaneous publication; Universal Copyright Convention (U.C.C.).