The Universal Copyright Convention (or UCC), adopted at Geneva in 1952, is one of the two principal international conventions protecting copyright; the other is the Berne Convention.
The UCC was developed by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as an alternative to the Berne Convention for those states which disagreed with aspects of the Berne Convention, but still wished to participate in some form of multilateral copyright protection. These states included developing countries and the Soviet Union, which thought that the strong copyright protections granted by the Berne Convention overly benefited Western developed copyright-exporting nations, and the United States and most of Latin America. The United States and Latin America were already members of a Pan-American copyright convention, which was weaker than the Berne Convention. The Berne Convention states also became party to the UCC, so that their copyrights would exist in non-Berne convention states.
The United States only provided copyright protection for a fixed, renewable term, and required that in order for a work to be copyrighted it must contain a copyright notice and be registered at the Copyright Office. The Berne Convention, on the other hand, provided for copyright protection for a single term based on the life of the author, and did not require registration or the inclusion of a copyright notice for copyright to exist. Thus the United States would have to make several major modifications to its copyright law in order to become a party to it. At the time the United States was unwilling to do so. The UCC thus permits those states which had a system of protection similar to the United States for fixed terms at the time of signature to retain them. Eventually the United States became willing to participate in the Berne convention, and change its national copyright law as required. In 1989 it became a party to the Berne Convention as a result of the Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988.
Under the Second Protocol of the Universal Copyright Convention (Paris text), protection under U.S. Copyright Law is expressly required for works published by the United Nations, by U.N. specialized agencies and by the Organization of American States. The same requirement applies to other contracting states as well.
Berne Convention states were concerned that the existence of the UCC would encourage parties to the Berne Convention to leave that convention and adopt the UCC instead. So the UCC included a clause stating that parties which were also Berne Convention parties need not apply the provisions of the Convention to any former Berne Convention state which renounced the Berne Convention after 1951. Thus any state which adopts the Berne Convention is penalised if it then decides to renounce it and use the UCC protections instead, since its copyrights might no longer exist in Berne Convention states.
Since almost all countries are either members or aspiring members of the World Trade Organization, and are thus conforming to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement, the UCC has lost significance.
Full article ▸