Copyright overseas

Copyright symbol on a digital screen with lines of financial code in the background
Know your copyrights
5 February 2012
Writers Victoria

A general rule for overseas copyright is to apply the law of the country where you are using the material. For example, if you wish to reproduce a book in Australia (regardless of where it was first published), Australian law applies.

Copyright does vary around the world but certain standards apply. Australia is party to a number of treaties (such as the Berne Convention) that provide a certain minimum level of protection.

For more information, see the Copyright Council’s information sheet G030, 'Copyright protection in other countries.'

Only a few countries are not currently party to these treaties, for example, Taiwan is not a party to the Berne Convention. In this case, Taiwanese law applies, but it is not required to uphold the standards specified in the treaties.

There is a full list of intellectual property treaties and signatories available through the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

Australia is part of the following international treaties:

For more information, see the Australian Copyright Council’s 'Copyright Protection in Other Countries'.

Copyright in the United States of America

Some countries have optional copyright registration systems. The main one to be aware of is the USA. You do not need to register for copyright protection in any other country that has signed up to international treaties but, for the USA, it will make it easier to take legal action if copyright is infringed. There may also be a practical advantage in registering the work if it will be published or distributed in a country with a registration system.

In Australia, proof of copyright registration in another country may be used as evidence of copyright ownership in legal proceedings, although it is not conclusive.

The United States Copyright Office has a list of international copyright relations in their Circular 38A.