The Universal Copyright Convention (UCC)

Fact sheet P-14 The Universal Copyright Convention (UCC)

Issued: 14th July 2004
Last amended: 27th January 2007

The Universal Copyright Convention (UCC), was first created in 1952 in Geneva, as an alternative to the Berne convention.

  1. Why was the convention needed?

    Some countries disagreed with certain articles in the Berne Convention, and were not prepared to sign up to the terms of the Berne Convention. Most notably the United States who at the time only provided protection on a fixed term registration basis via the Library Of Congress, and required that copyright works must always show the © symbol. This meant that the US needed to make several changes to its laws before it could comply with the Berne Convention. The US finally signed up to the Berne Convention on the 1st of March 1989, and now only requires registration for work first published in the US by US citizens.

    The UCC ensured that international protection was available to authors even in countries that would not become parties to the Berne Convention. Berne convention countries also became signatories of the UCC to ensure that the work of citizens in Berne Convention countries would be protected in non-Berne Convention countries.

  2. How important is the Convention?

    The Universal Copyright Convention is of limited importance today, as most countries are now part of the Union of the Berne Convention.

    To ensure that the existence of the UCC did not lead to a conflict with the Berne Convention, Article 17 of the UCC states that the the convention does not affect any provision of the Berne convention, and the appendix declaration to the article goes on to state that any country that withdraws from the Berne Convention after 1st January 1951 will not be protected by the UCC in countries of the Berne Convention Union.

    This effectively gave the Berne Convention precedence and penalises any country that withdraws from the Berne Convention to adopt the UCC.

  3. Terms of the Convention

    The convention details the following points:

    • Contracting states provide the same cover to foreign published works as they do to their own citizens.
    • States that require formal registration should treat works from foreign states that are signatories of the convention as though they had been registered in the state, provided that they carry a notice which includes the © symbol and states the name of the owner.
    • It sets a minimum duration for copyright protection as 25 years from the date of publication, and typically not less that 25 years from the authors death. With a notable exception of photographic and applied arts work which has a minimum protection of 10 years.
    • It recognises the economic rights of the author, (the right to authorise reproduction, public performance, broadcasting etc.)
    • It recognises the authors right to make translations of the work.
    • It also specifies particular exceptions which may be applied to developing countries.

    As with the Berne Convention, the UCC provides flexibility on how nation states implement details of the convention, and in order to understand specific aspects, it should be read in conjunction with national copyright laws.

  4. Further reading

    The UNESCO web site provides a full text of the Universal Copyright Convention.

    Our Berne Convention fact sheet deals with the principal international convention regarding copyright.

    Our UK Copyright Law fact sheet deals with specific details of UK legislation.

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