Skip to main content
International Copyright Law: A Book Review (2001) 23 (12) European Intellectual Property Review 601-602.
  • Matthew Rimmer, Australian National University College of Law

In his 1994 book, Copyright's Highway, Paul Goldstein made the telling prophecy:

"The celestial jukebox may also portend more revolutional changes in international copyright markets. As the celestial jukebox disseminates information and entertainment over the air and without regard for national boundaries, the importance of the nation-state as a traditional guarantor of copyright may be replaced by international institutions such as the newly established World Trade Organization."

In retrospect, it was an accurate prediction. The celestial jukebox has shown little respect for national boundaries. In particular, ephemeral file-sharing programs such as Napster, Freenet and Filetopia have posed difficulties for copyright law. International treaties have taken on larger significance, and international institutions such as the World Intellectual Property Organisation and World Trade Organisation have assumed a greater role in regulating international copyright markets.

In International Copyright Law, Paul Goldstein explores the role of international treaties and international organisations in regulating copyright law. In Part one, the author outlines the two great legal traditions of international copyright law, highlighting points of convergence and divergence:

"Copyright and author's right are the two great legal traditions for protecting literary and artistic works. The copyright tradition is associated with the common law world - England, where the tradition began, the former British colonies, and the countries of the British Commonwealth. The tradition of author's right is rooted in the civil law system, and prevails in the countries of the European continent and their former colonies in Latin America, Africa and Asia."

Paul Goldstein goes on to highlight the implications of international copyright law for the colonies of foreign powers. He notes: "When nations such as France, Germany, and the United Kingdom signed the Berne Convention in 1886, they effectively committed their colonies to the Convention's obligations. As these colonies achieved independence starting in the 1950s, they increasingly chafed at the imposition of copyright treaty standards that had been imposed on them by a foreign power". There needs to be further historical research into copyright law and colonialism.

  • International Copyright Law
Publication Date
November, 2001
Citation Information
Matthew Rimmer, 'International Copyright Law: A Book Review' (2001) 23 (12) European Intellectual Property Review 601-602.