Harmonising Copyright Law and Dealing with Dissonance

Harmonising Copyright Law and Dealing with Dissonance

A Framework for Convergence of US and EU law

Sheldon W. Halpern and Phillip Johnson

The highly-regarded authors of this important work explore the constitutional, institutional, and cultural barriers to harmonisation of the copyright laws of the United States and the European Union. They consider these matters in the real world transnational environment in which copyright law operates and suggest that the reality transcends the differences, offering a framework for meaningful harmonisation.

Chapter 2: Minimum standards and international codes

Sheldon W. Halpern and Phillip Johnson

Subjects: law - academic, intellectual property law


Laws, be they customary or the product of enactment by a legislative body, are, almost by definition, territorial and individual legal rights, even under similar legal rubrics, often may be very different from state to state. Copyright law is not special in this regard; indeed, it had long been recognised as epitomising the territoriality principle. However, this apparent axiom requires deeper analysis. What is usually meant by copyright being “territorial” is not much more than a shorthand acknowledgement of the fact that there is no universal copyright code. That nod to current reality need not be taken as a global assertion of the inherently local nature of copyright law. We have discussed the existing localisation of copyright laws within the European Union and the general issue of “uniform” laws in the United States and there is no doubt that uniformity comes at a price. Nevertheless, the desire of authors in one country to obtain revenues (or recognition of rights) in another – together with the technological reality of an essentially borderless copyright world – has meant that proposals for transnational protection or uniform laws are almost as old as copyright protection itself. Specific multi-national action has heretofore largely taken the form of attempts to articulate and uniformly adopt sets of certain defined minimum standards. There is a significant and important difference between the largely uniform adoption of minimum standards and the creation of an overall uniform law. This difference is substantial.

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