This article is by Brian Sherwin, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Conservative Punk, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint, Vandalog, COMPANY, artnet, WorldNetDaily (WND) and Art Fag City. If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 22,000+ subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites. Disclaimer: This author's views are entirely his/her own and may not reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
If you follow my writing on FineArtViews you know that I'm fascinated by the rules and regulations surrounding copyright in the United States (several of those copyright-related articles can be found by clicking here). I often receive questions from artists concerning US copyright law in general. One common question involves the idea that there is some form of 'international copyright' -- artists want to know if their artwork (and images of their artwork online) is protected internationally under US copyright. The short answer is: No. I will explain below.
As the US Copyright Office declares... there is no such thing as an 'international copyright' that will automatically protect your artwork throughout the world. The copyright protection that you have in a specific country depends on the national laws that the country adheres to concerning copyright. In other words, one country may acknowledge your US copyright, while another will disregard any claim that you have to authorship -- they won't care if someone uses your images without permission. In fact, some countries have no copyright law to speak of.
The above information may be depressing to US based artists who are worried about overseas copyright infringement -- BUT you may still have a chance to protect your artwork if a foreigner impedes on your US copyright by preventing products involving the infringed image(s) from being sold, or viewed online, in the US and abroad. After all, the United States has built some strong copyright relationships with countries throughout the world in the form of international copyright conventions and treaties – notably, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty (implemented in United States law by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)).
Don't feel overly secure though. The international agreements, and specific national laws, involving copyright infringement can get rather complicated. Furthermore, just because a country has signed a copyright agreement with the United States (and other countries) does NOT mean that said agreements will be enforced in a meaningful way (China is a perfect example). Additionally, the US Copyright Act applies only to infringement occurring within the United States – overseas infringement is traditionally beyond the reach of US courts... the copyright infringer, if challenged directly at all, will likely end up in a foreign court (DON'T expect to receive damages based on specific US law. DO expect the expense of taking an infringer on in foreign court to be insanely expensive. It most likely wouldn't be worth the expense from a financial standpoint).
Remember: The conventions and treaties mentioned earlier mainly help individuals/companies to protect their 'country of origin' market from being 'flooded' by foreign infringement.
Example: A United States artist could stop a foreign company from shipping infringing art reproductions to US stores. Additionally, other countries that have signed the same conventions and treaties with the US may stop the violating company from shipping the infringing art reproductions to stores located in their countries.
In closing, 'international copyright', as in a single copyright that protects your artwork throughout the world, technically does not exist. However, international copyright conventions and treaties DO exist. Those international copyright conventions and treaties can be helpful depending on the situation. Note: this topic is extremely complex – far more than I can handle in one article. Consider this the tip of the iceberg.
Take care, Stay true,