Exporting American Copyright Law

Christopher R. Perry, Exporting American Copyright Law, 37 Gonz L. Rev. 451 (2002).

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The copyright industries estimate that they lost approximately $9 billion of revenue in 1999 and $7.5 billion in 2000 to piracy. Certainly, the large-scale piracy of music, motion picture, and software in China has not escaped the attention of the world.3 It is estimated that ninety percent of music products in China are counterfeit. In one recent example, the movie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was available in the streets of China only days after it was first released in movie theaters. Considering the importance of the copyright industries to the United States economy, the topic of copyright piracy is one that receives much attention. Yet despite the attention, piracy still flourishes abroad. How are U.S. copyright holders to protect their copyrights from the modern day version of the Barbary pirates?

When the United States joined the Berne Convention in 1989,7 it agreed to a copyright enforcement mechanism called “national treatment.” Under this enforcement mechanism, the U.S. is charged with protecting foreign copyright holders just as it protects U.S. copyright holders under U.S. copyright laws. In return, U.S. copyright holders are protected by each member-nation of the Berne Convention in the same manner.’ This system offers some advantages; namely, it gives U.S. copyright holders the ability to enforce their copyrights around the globe.” Many U.S. copyright holders, however, have not found this level of protection satisfactory for several reasons. First, protecting a copyright in foreign lands comes with the obvious enforcement costs-it is expensive to litigate in foreign countries with different laws and procedures. Second, U.S. copyright holders have found that the laws of most members of the Berne Convention do not offer the level of protection guaranteed by U.S. laws and procedures. . . . Read More

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