Copyright Qs & As: International Copyright Issues

11.1 Question: If I live in a country where the duration of copyright is life+50 (as in Canada), rather than life+70 (as in the U.S. and EU countries), for what duration do I need to obtain permission for works being posted on my Web site?

Answer: Since works on a Web site are accessible from around the world, it is best to clear permission for life+70 years for all works. If you are accessing any of the works in Canada, let’s say, permission is only necessary for life+50 (even for U.S. or EU works), however if those same works are accessed from a U.S. Web site, then permission for life-70 may be necessary (assuming the works will be available for that length of time.) (2007-1)

11.2 Question: What is the role of the WIPO treaties on copyright law ( and how do they govern copyright in each country?

Answer: WIPO administers a number of copyright treaties however these treaties do not govern the copyright law in any country. Rather, the countries who adhere to these treaties must include the minimum standard of copyright protection in these treaties. For instance, the Berne Convention specifies 50 years after an author’s death as the minimum duration of copyright protection. Each Berne member country must protect copyright works for at least 50 years, but may do so for longer, as in the U.S., for 70 years. (2007-2)

11.3 Question: Do I need to register copyright in each country where I want to claim copyright protection?

Answer: No. If a work is protected by copyright in your own country (assuming the country is signatory to the Berne Convention), then the work is protected in all Berne Convention countries. No additional steps including registration are necessary to obtain protection. Note that registration is not mandatory in Berne Convention countries. A list of Berne Convention countries is at: (2007-3)

11.4 Question: What is the leading copyright treaty?

Answer: The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works which currently has 164 members (as of 22 March 2011.) (2011-1)


  1. Lesley says:

    Hi Sacha, in many countries using a small quote is fine under copyright law but it does depend on how long the quote is in relation to the entire work the quote is from as well as how important that quote in relation to the entire work. If you need permission to use the quote, you’ll need permission to translate it!

  2. Sacha says:

    Hi Lesley, here is a kind of complicated question. I’m French but writing a novel in English. I would like to use few sentences from a French song in there, so here is my question: Do I need permission if I use those lyrics but translated in English?

    Thank you for this blog, it’s really useful!

  3. Lesley says:

    Hi Carol, that is a complicated question and involves international copyright law principles. I teach a course on global copyright for librarians which is definitely what you want to explore…see

  4. Carol says:

    Now that the Canadian copyright law has changed to allow Canadian libraries to electronically deliver interlibrary loan articles directly to their patrons, we are wondering if this only applies with our Canadian patrons, or can we electronically deliver to our patrons who live in the United States as well?

  5. Lesley says:

    Hi Gaurav, that is not a simple yes or no answer. There is both copyright and trademark (and even sometimes patent) protection in various parts of a board game. Usually, the board game has protection in any countries in which it is available either through automatic protection in Berne Convention countries for copyright, or through registered trade marks in various countries. Although inspiration for your online game may be okay, copying any elements is not. This may be a fine line.

  6. Gaurav says:

    Hi Lesley, I would like to know if I will be infringing on copyright by creating my own online version of a popular board game? The copyright for that game is registered in the US, but I want to make and release this web based game from India. Also, my game would have a lot of additional features and changes, and would obviously have a different media (Web vs. board game), will be called something else and will have entirely different art work/graphics. I will add a lot to this game but the basic idea of ‘building a team in a city using a map and a few transit points on the map’ will remain the same.

    Please advise. Thanks for your help.

  7. Lesley says:

    Hi Debra, it depends on where you are using the work. So if you are using it, ie copying it, in Canada, then you apply the duration in Canada, which would be 50 years after the life of the last living author.

  8. Debra Cashion says:

    Q: I would like to know whether a work published in Japan without date but probably in 1927 is in the public domain. There are two authors, the father who died in 1927 before the work was finished and the daughter who finished it and died only recently in 2009. Thank you for your suggestions.

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