A few months ago, I wrote an essay for this series that argued for reinstatement of formalities as a prerequisite to copyright protection. I left unaddressed one of the main objections to such a system: the fact that international law is unfriendly to formalities. I address that objection here.

The most pertinent international law is the Berne Convention, a multilateral treaty that dates to the 1800s. Since 1908, Article 5(2) of the treaty has prevented any signatory nation from requiring formalities such as registration and notice as a condition of copyright protection. It was the United States’ accession to the Berne Convention in 1989 that precipitated the removal of formalities as copyright prerequisites in U.S. law. And if the United States fails to comply with Berne, it can suffer serious trade sanctions under the World Trade Organization’s dispute resolution system. [...]

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