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The International Framework for the Protection of Authors: Bendable Boundaries and Immovable Obstacles



Public, Staff, Students


This paper is concerned with the international framework within which authors’ rights in their works are protected and exploited. It is not about brave new worlds that might exist outside or beyond this framework where rights and usages are reconceived and restructured on some totally new basis, but only with what that framework presently allows and facilitates. It is therefore pragmatic in its approach, identifying the “immovable obstacles” to reform, while seeking at the same time to expose the potential flexibilities and gaps – the “bendable boundaries” - within the international framework that may enable the realization of some, at least, of the objectives of those who would seek to reform and reformulate national copyright laws. Although changes to the major international agreement in this area – the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works - seem highly unlikely, notwithstanding the mechanism for revision built into the Convention and its past history of successive, incremental revisions, the option remains for special agreements that meet the requirements of article 20 of Berne and which may provide a vehicle for incremental advances.

Furthermore, even in the absence of changes at the public international law level, the existing international framework itself is not as inflexible as might first appear, when it comes to the things that national policy makers and legislators may do. Many of its boundaries are bendable, in that they provide leeway or space for the making of national decisions that will still be Berne-compliant, but which will allow contracting countries to achieve their own goals and objectives. And while there some immovable barriers remain, such as the requirements with respect to term of protection and formalities, in the case of the latter there are various options that may be adopted without contravening international obligations. A nuanced and careful approach is required, and perfection in outcome may never be possible, bearing in mind the aphorism that the perfect should not become the enemy of the good. Much may still be achieved within the existing framework that promotes the objectives both of author protection and the wider public interest.

Indeed, it may be that there is a brave new world for the protection of authors’ rights that is embedded within the interstices of the present international framework that is waiting to be uncovered and realized.

About the speaker

Professor Sam Ricketson holds degrees from the Universities of Melbourne and London, and is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences of Australia and Australian Academy of Law.  Prior to his appointment to the University of Melbourne in November 2000, Sam was the Sir Keith Aickin Professor of Commercial Law at Monash University. Before this, he had held positions at the University of Melbourne (1977 to 1991) and in the Centre for Commercial Law Studies, Queen Mary & Westfield College, London (1984-1986).  Sam has written, taught and advised widely in all areas of intellectual property law (copyright and designs, patents, trademarks and unfair competition, and breach of confidence), conflicts of law, trade practices and corporate law.

He has also held various professional as well as governmental appointments in the intellectual property area, including membership of the Commonwealth Copyright Tribunal. He is currently a panel member of the World Intellectual Property Organization's dispute resolution body in relation to domain names and was a member of the Victorian Law Reform Commission from 2001 to 2010.

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When and where

5.30pm - 7.30pmThursday 7th June 2018

AG07b College Building City, University of London St John Street London EC1V 4PB United Kingdom

Booking Form

Booking Form: The International Framework for the Protection of Authors: Bendable Boundaries and Immovable Obstacles