International Copyright

As technology develops, copyright works can be reproduced and communicated beyond national borders with ease. International copyright protection is essential for copyright works to retain their value.

Australian law applies to copying within Australia no matter where the work was originally written or published. In the same way, copying in the United States is regulated by US copyright law.

The situation is more complex when works are used in another country. For instance, what if the work of an Australian author is published by an English publisher and subsequently copied in Malaysia?

Australia is a party to a number of international treaties that protect copyright material. These include the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (Berne Convention) and the Universal Copyright Convention (UCC).


The Copyright Agency is an active member of the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations (IFRRO).

IFRRO is the preeminent international network of collective management organisations and creators’ and publishers’ associations in the text and image sector. With 143 member organisations in 78 countries, IFRRO represents hundreds of thousands of creators worldwide, and is eligible to speak before major international copyright organisations, including WIPO and UNESCO.

International Association of STM Publishers

Copyright Agency is an associate member of the International Association of STM Publishers, the leading global trade association for academic and professional publishers. It has over 120 members in 21 countries who each year collectively publish nearly 66% of all journal articles and tens of thousands of monographs and reference works. Read further information on STM. 


With 230 member societies in 120 countries, CISAC – the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers – represents more than 3 million creators from all geographic areas and all artistic repertoires; music, audiovisual, drama, literature and visual arts.

CISAC works to protect the rights and promote the interests of creators worldwide. In supporting the development of an international network of collective management societies, CISAC enables collective management organisations to seamlessly represent creators across the globe and ensure that royalties flow to authors for the use of their works anywhere in the world.

Viscopy has been a full member of CISAC for a number of years, while Copyright Agency is currently a provisional member of CISAC.
Read further information on CISAC


The Copyright Agency has reciprocal agreements with a large number of reproduction rights organisations in other countries. Through these agreements, Copyright Agency members are represented in some countries by foreign reproduction rights organisations in the same way as those societies represent the interests of their own members. See our Affiliates.

Currently, the Copyright Agency has agreements to transfer funds with international collection societies.


The Berne Convention was concluded in 1886, and now has over 100 member countries. It aims to protect the rights of authors by providing certain established standards of protection for their works. Two major international principles underlying the Berne Convention are:

  • the principle of national treatment; and
  • the principle of automatic protection.
  • the principle of national treatment allows the courts of a country to apply their national law to acts that occur within that country, rather than a foreign law. Decisions are therefore more likely to be soundly based, since judges will apply a law with which they are familiar.

Under the principle of automatic protection, a work will be granted protection even if it fails to satisfy formalities, such as registration or legal deposit, under the national law of a member country.
The Berne Convention covers a wide range of works including books, pamphlets and other writings, lectures, dramatic works and illustrations. Translations, adaptations, arrangements and collections are also protected. Generally, works are protected for 70 years after the author’s death.

The works of nationals of all Berne Convention member countries are protected. Some works of authors who are not nationals of Berne Convention member countries may also be protected if the work was first or simultaneously published in a member country.

The Berne Convention gives authors certain exclusive rights, including making or authorising translation, reproductions and public recitations; and protection of moral rights.
Each member country may permit certain uses of works in its legislation, such as a statutory licence for reproduction and communication of works by educational institutions. The Berne Convention limits the impact of such exceptions to the copyright owner’s exclusive rights by providing that the normal exploitation of the work and legitimate interests of the author must not be affected.

See Copyright Agency’s International Affiliates 

Viscopy similarly has agreements with Visual Arts partners around the world. See Viscopy’s Affiliates.


The UCC was concluded in 1952 under the auspices of the United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in an attempt to incorporate a greater number of countries into the international copyright community. UCC protection is lower and more flexible than the Berne Convention. It was felt that it was better suited to the needs of developing countries.

The UCC embodies the principle of national treatment, but not automatic protection. A UCC member country is not required to give a foreign work automatic protection if national formalities for protection have not been met. Consequently, the © symbol, name and date of first publication should be placed on the work to give reasonable notice of claim of copyright.

Literary, scientific and artistic works are protected by the UCC. Generally, works will be protected for a minimum of 25 years beyond the life of the author.

The UCC requires member countries to provide minimum rights to rightsholders. Exceptions to these rights may be made as long as they do not conflict with “the spirit and provisions of this Convention”.

The Berne Convention and UCC have been developed through ‘revision’ meetings at which all member states discuss reform. These revisions have been necessary to keep pace with technological developments. For a treaty to be revised, all the signatory States must agree to the revision.


The enforcement of rights is one of the features of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) Agreement under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Signatories to the GATT are required to implement national laws of a basic international standard and establish procedures for the effective enforcement of the copyright of national and foreign rightsholders.

The TRIPS Agreement under the GATT agreement is managed by the World Trade Organisation (WTO). As a WTO member, Australia has already amended its copyright legislation to comply with the requirements of the TRIPS agreement.

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