Book Review: International Copyright

International Copyright: Principles, Law and Practice by Paul Goldstein, Of Counsel, Morrison & Foerster, and P. Bernt Hugenholtz, Professor of Intellectual Property Law and Director, The Institute for Information Law of the University of Amsterdam (IViR) is now in its fourth edition. It is a comprehensive guide to the international rules, practices and principles of copyright around the world, making it an essential read and reference tool for lawyers involved in transactional and litigation matters.

Whilst providing comprehensive coverage of all the global topics around copyright, the book is written in an easily accessible manner, explaining complex issues in an understandable way, with helpful headings to be able to locate a particular subject area efficiently. The book is presented in two main parts. Part 1 describes the general principles of international copyright and the structure of the main conventions in 5 chapters on the Principles of International Copyright.

Chapter 1 introduces the reader to international copyright, looking at the common rules and principles, the rationale of copyright, the politics of international copyright, and the internationalisation of copyright. Considering that 176 countries are signatory to the Berne Convention and 164 countries adhering to the TRIPS agreement, the authors note that national copyright laws have far more in common than not. However, despite over a century of international, regional and bilateral harmonisation, although the substantive copyright norms may gradually be converging, the territorial nature of copyright has so far largely prevented the emergence of substantive norms with supranational effect.

They begin by setting out some of copyright commonalities across boarders such as protecting original literary and artistic works with the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, publicly perform, broadcast and communicate to the public. The authors also set out to bust some myths, for example it is widely thought that contractual freedom prevails only in common law countries and that civil law countries closely regulate copyright contract. However, the authors explain that in fact, as a rule, courts everywhere enforce copyright contracts according to their privately agreed terms, with exceptions to the freedom-of-contract principle.

Chapter 1 also provides philosophical and political insights which provide the reader with a holistic understanding of the underpinning and impact that these factors have on the regulation, particularly the disagreements between nations and divergences in the law.
International copyright policymaking resembles a game of chess being played simultaneously on several boards
Chapter 2 sets out the legal traditions and history of copyright, covering author’s rights and neighbouring rights, and copyright as a human right. Chapter 3 focuses on the norms of international copyright, describing the substance and structure of the key international, regional and bilateral conventions related to copyright and neighbouring rights. This includes copyright treaties, neighbouring rights treaties, regional arrangements, trade agreements and intergovernmental organisations.

Chapter 4 covers territoriality, national treatment, as well as issues of private international law; jurisdiction and conflict of laws. Chapter 5 covers the scope of copyright and points of attachment of international protection, this includes an examination of the Berne Convention, Universal Copyright Convention, copyright treaties, TRIPS, neighbouring rights treaties, and points of attachment under national law.

The second part of the book provides 7 chapters on Substantive Copyright, offering a comparative overview of the substantive norms of copyright, guided by the minimal standards set out in the international agreements, this part analyses the rules on copyright and neighbouring rights of national laws. It focuses mainly on four states; US and UK as common law jurisdictions and France and Germany representing author’s right tradition. In addition, it also refers to EU directives and regulations as well as diverging approaches from other jurisdictions such as Australia, Canada, India, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands and Spain.

Territorial Kat
Image: Andy Miccone
Chapter 6 covers on the subject matter of copyright and neighbouring rights, focusing first on literary and artistic works and then performance, phonograms, broadcasts, databases, and other productions. It includes unprotectable subject matter such as ideas, facts and official texts, as well as formalities. It also notes the divergence of the fixation requirement, which broadly speaking is required in common law jurisdictions but not the civil law tradition.

Chapter 7 looks at authorship and ownership, including joint authorship, collective works, works made for hire, audio-visual works, ownership by transfer and rights management. Chapter 8 covers term of protection for copyright and neighbouring rights. Chapter 9 is an extensive chapter which provides detailed examination of all the main economic rights including reproduction, distribution (covering exhaustion, rental, lending and resale rights), translation and adaption, communication to the public, secondary liability, and neighbouring rights including performers rights, rights for phonogram producers and broadcasting organisations.

Chapter 10 considers moral rights including paternity, integrity, divulgation, withdrawal as well as the limitations and waiver of moral rights. Chapter 11 covers exceptions, exemptions, statutory licenses and other limitations of exclusive rights. Beginning with the national traditions and treaty constraints such as the three-step test, it then looks at private uses such as research and scholarship, private copying and reverse engineering, incidental uses such as transient copies, and public uses such as quotation and parody. It then considers reproduction and translation in developing countries, arguing that economically developing countries must often strike the copyright balance differently than economically developed countries, favouring free use or compulsory licenses to meet deep-seated educational needs. Lastly, this chapter identifies external constraints on copyright such as misuse and abuse of copyright, and freedom of expression. Lastly, Chapter 12 covers copyright enforcement, from coercive remedies including temporary and permanent remedies, monetary remedies, criminal sanctions and customs border measures. 

This book will be of particular use to copyright lawyers and practitioners working with international licenses, agreements or litigation, or dealing with oversees exploitation. Academics, researchers and students looking at the international copyright system will find this to be an exhaustive resource.

Available from OUP in hardback - £94.00
Published: 14 October 2019
448 Pages
ISBN: 9780190060619
Also Available in Ebook
Book Review: International Copyright Book Review: International Copyright Reviewed by Hayleigh Bosher on Friday, December 20, 2019 Rating: 5


  1. This sounds more like a publisher's promotional piece than an actual review. I now know exactly what is in the book (which information I could presumably mostly find in the table of contents), but is it any good? Has the reviewer actually read the book? Do they have any opinions on it?

    1. Thanks for your anonymous comment, yes of course I actually read the book, that is how I Was able to explain the contents in great detail, providing quotes and comments. However, this book is - as explained in my review - primarily a reference tool or guide for practitioners - which means that it mostly sets out the law rather than making arguments, as such the opportunity to form opinions is limited. My opinion is - as stated - that this is a comprehensive guide that would be helpful particularly to lawyers as well as researchers and that it is written in an easily accessible way, with helpful headings to make it easier for lawyers in a hurry to navigate and take what they need from it.

      Merry Christmas.

      PS. Here is the table of contents for your reference. I would be impressed if you were able to gather the same information in my review from this list.

      PART I Principles of International Copyright
      CHAPTER 1 Introduction
      CHAPTER 2 The Legal Traditions
      CHAPTER 3 The Norms of International Copyright
      CHAPTER 4 Territoriality, National Treatment, Jurisdiction, and Conflict of Laws
      CHAPTER 5 Scope and Points of Attachment of International Protection
      PART II Substantive Copyright Law
      CHAPTER 6 Subject Matter of Copyright and Neighboring Rights
      CHAPTER 7 Authorship and Ownership
      CHAPTER 8 Term of Protection
      CHAPTER 9 Economic Rights
      CHAPTER 10 Moral Rights
      CHAPTER 11 Exemptions, Statutory Licenses, and Other Limitations on Exclusive Rights
      CHAPTER 12 Enforcement


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