Copyright and related-rights treaties and laws
Music and sound recordings are protected both nationally and internationally, through copyright and related-rights (or "neighbouring rights") laws in most countries, and a series of international treaties that ensure that creative people and companies are protected in countries other than their own.
There are five principal international treaties in force today that provide protection for musicians and producers of recorded music. Under the international treaty system, a creative person or company that resides or releases a recording in any country that has ratified the treaty, is protected in all other countries that have joined the treaty.
1. Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works
The Berne Convention, last revised in 1971, is the principal treaty protecting authors and composers of music. This treaty provides a list of rights enjoyed by these authors-such as the right to authorise or prohibit reproduction, public communication, or adaptation of these works. It also allows treaty countries to provide certain exceptions to protection. Some countries also protect producers of sound recordings as "authors" with Berne-type protections.
At least 150 countries are members of the Berne Convention, which is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), a United Nations body based in Geneva, Switzerland. WIPO convened a Committee of Experts in the early 1990s to consider possible updates to the Berne Convention, which resulted in two new WIPO treaties, now being adopted in numerous countries world-wide. See WIPO Copyright Treaties.
The text of the Berne Convention can be found at
2. WIPO Copyright Treaties
Two treaties adopted by the international community in 1996, the WIPO Copyright Treaty ("WCT") applicable to authors and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty ("WPPT") applicable to performers and phonogram producers, bring copyright protection into the digital age. These update previous treaties by granting rights with respect to distribution activities and computer programs; protecting against unauthorised internet use; and protecting technological measures used on copyright material and rights-management information against hacking, removal or alteration.
Further detail on the WIPO Treaties is provided elsewhere on this website. The text of the treaties, which came into force in 2002, can be found at http://www.wipo.int/clea/docs/en/wo/wo033en.htm (WCT), and http://www.wipo.int/clea/docs/en/wo/wo034en.htm (WPPT).
A list of the 41 members of these treaties can be found at
3. Rome Convention
The International Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organisations, known as the "Rome Convention," provides international protection for record producers, as well as performers and broadcasters. Producers in treaty countries are protected against unauthorized copying of their recordings, and have a right to payment for broadcast of their recordings, subject to certain exceptions.
The text of the Rome Convention, adopted in 1961, can be found at
4. Geneva Phonograms Convention
An additional treaty was adopted in 1971 to deal with the growing problem of piracy of recorded music. The Convention for the Protection of Producers of Phonograms Against Unauthorised Duplication of their Phonograms, known as the "Geneva Phonograms Convention," protects against unauthorised duplication of sound recordings, and against unauthorised import and distribution of such copies.
Seventy-two countries are parties to this treaty, the text of which can be found at
5. Universal Copyright Convention
The Universal Copyright Convention ("UCC"), last revised in 1971, protects authors and other copyright proprietors against unauthorised reproduction, public performance and broadcasting, again subject to certain exceptions.
The text of the UCC can be found at
6. The TRIPs Agreement
One of the important obligations of World Trade Organisation (WTO) members is to protect intellectual property, including sound recordings, under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. This treaty, which applies to the 146 WTO members, came into effect in 1995 for developed countries. Intellectual-property obligations came into effect for developing countries on 1 January 2000, and will apply from 1 January 2005 for least-developed countries. The TRIPs agreement requires all members to comply with the substantive provisions of the Berne Convention. It mirrors the Rome Convention protections against unauthorised copying of sound recordings, and provides a specific right to authorise or prohibit commercial rental of these works. It also provides a detailed set of requirements relating to the enforcement of rights which, in sum, require remedies and procedures that effectively deter piracy.
The text of the TRIPs agreement can be found at