Areas of Practice - International Aspects of Law
More and more the entertainment and art fields cross national borders. The Internet has no borders at all in its world wide web form. Anything created has the potential to be impacted by the laws of many different jurisdictions at any step along the way. An awareness of the potential impact of these laws is essential to being prepared in our global communications and trade environment.
Of course, this section cannot hope to give even an overview of all the pertinent laws of the countries on the planet. What it will attempt to do is introduce how the United States' creative products can be affected by laws outside the country's borders.
We've already discussed Moral Rights in the Art Law section and Cultural Preservation laws in the Cultural Property section. These laws at least apply when the property concerned travels to other countries. But there are ways that foreign interest can influence the way the United States treats property within its shores.
Although every state claims inalienable sovereignty over its own domain, international commerce and discourse are facilitated by mutual agreements of respect between nations. These agreements are traditionally formalized in treaties- negotiated agreements between two or more countries granting concessions and requiring compliance for mutual benefit. Two countries can execute treaties between themselves, called bilateral treaties, that establish the "rules" of how they will deal with each other within the parameters of the treaty. The United States and Canada have many bilateral treaties that deal with the common practice of the transactions that cross the common border.
International Treaties, Conventions and Agreements
But when there are more than one country interested in establishing a common ground of dealing amongst them all, a broader solution can be found.
Berne Convention (for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works)
In 1887 a group of countries gathered to discuss mutual ideas for the protection of literary and artistic works. Over the course of time and after multiple meetings for revisions, the Berne Convention has become the paramount international agreement for creative works. It establishes minimum standards for the treatment of works of foreign nationals, creating commonality and encouraging international commerce. Nearly every country on the planet has signed on to or agreed in some other manner to abide by the Articles of the Berne Convention. Except for notable exceptions (consider the United State's stance verses Article 6bis for instance,) you can look to the Berne Convention to see how your creative works should be treated when marketed on foreign shores.
TRIPS (Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, Including Trade in Counterfeit Goods)
For all the progress and promise of the Berne Convention, what that document lacked was the teeth of an enforcement clause. This lack was attempted to be addressed by the TRIPS agreement which adopted the whole of the Berne Convention within its mandates and created an enforcement ability within the World Trade Organization to mandate punishment for non-compliance. Though rarely used, (one notable use was the WTO's finding that the United States was in the wrong with regard to treatment of Irish music rights holders,) the specter of its existence has allowed much more compliance than was previously available under Berne alone.
WTO (World Trade Organization)
The WTO was created specifically to better and monitor trade between nations. In being a non-national entity, it is better suited to stand as arbiter between disputing trade parties and hand out decisions. By being prudent and judicious in its application it has guided the encouragement of fair international commerce without having to employ a heavy hand of authority. Because of the WTO and other organizations like it, the expectations of international commerce are much more predictable.
EU (European Union)
The European Union has formed and shown itself to be a formidable new way of approaching international business. The countries within the Union benefit greatly from the lessened formalities and restrictions of trade amongst their brethren. And by creating a much larger trading bloc it has strengthened the force of negotiational abilities for its members. When taking domestic products into EU countries an awareness of how the Union functions and how the playing field has changed from that of individual country negotiations is vital to maintaining the best results for the product.
Because a lot of the fields of law I with to pursue deal with subject matter that quite readily moves across borders and understanding of international implications is vital to best serving my clients. Even in the planning stages, long before any consideration of international markets is considered, there are prudent approaches that can be taken in nearly every situation which will allow easier transition if the international venue becomes available.